The J. Paul Getty Museum

Elijah Receiving Bread from the Widow of Zarephath

Object Details


Elijah Receiving Bread from the Widow of Zarephath


Giovanni Lanfranco (Italian, 1582 - 1647)






Oil on canvas

Object Number:



229.2 × 244.5 cm (90 1/4 × 96 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

In Giovanni Lanfranco's highly original design, a few large figures stand in a shallow foreground space. Using a low viewpoint and dramatic foreshortening, Lanfranco depicted the figures as if seen from below, imbuing them with monumentality. The powerful composition communicated both to spectators standing far away and to viewers standing beneath the painting.

In this Old Testament story (1 Kings 17:8-24), the poor widow of Zarephath nourished Elijah in the desert with bread baked from a supply of grain that Elijah had assured her would be miraculously renewed by God. In Catholic theology, the widow's bread prefigured both the bread served at the Last Supper and God's sustenance of each Christian's spirit through the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Appropriately, this picture and Moses and the Messengers from Canaan flanked a painting of the Last Supper in the large Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura (Saint Paul Outside the Walls) in Rome. Six additional paintings by Lanfranco, all related to the Eucharist, also hung high on the walls of the chapel.

by 1624 - by 1763

San Paolo fuori le Mura (Rome, Italy), commissioned from the artist for the Cappella del Sacramento; moved to sacristy by 1659, still there in 1676, later moved to refectory; transferred to the Convento di San Callisto by 1763.

by 1763 -

Convento di San Callisto (Rome, Italy)
Source: Titi, 1763.

about 1803/1806 - 1839

Cardinal Joseph Fesch, 1763 - 1839 (Paris, France; Rome, Italy), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1839 - 1845

Estate of Cardinal Joseph Fesch, 1763 - 1839 [sold, Fesch sale, George, Roma, March 17, 1845, lot 589, to Alessandro Aducci.]

1845 -

Alessandro Aducci (Rome, Italy)

- about 1860/1861

Col. Thomas Wildman (Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England), sold contents of entire estate to William Frederick Webb, about 1860/1861.

about 1860/1861 - still in 1882

William Frederick Webb (Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England), by inheritance to his daughter, Mrs. Charles Chermside.


Mrs. Charles Chermside, by inheritance to her husband, Major General Sir Herbert Charles Chermside.

by 1904 - still in 1929

Major General Sir Herbert Charles Chermside (Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire, England; Pepper Arden, Northallerton, North Yorkshire, England), possibly by inheritance to his second wife, Mrs. Herbert Charles Chermside.


Mrs. Herbert Charles Chermside, by inheritance to her nephew, Richard Gatty, possibly by 1960.

possibly by 1960 - 1971

Captain Richard Gatty (Pepper Arden Hall, North Hallerton, North Yorkshire, England) [sold, Gatty sale, Sotheby's, London, May 12, 1971, lot 14, to Colnaghi.]
Note: as Jusepe de Ribera, "A Hermit Saint being offered bread by a peasant"

1971 - 1976

Colnaghi (London, England; New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976.

Bernini scultore e la nascita del Barocco in Casa Borghese (May 15 to September 20, 1998)
  • Museo e Galleria Borghese (Rome), May 15 to September 20, 1998
Giovanni Lanfranco (1582-1647): Un pittore fra Parma, Roma e Napoli (September 1, 2001 to June 16, 2002)
  • Reggia di Colorno (Parma), September 1 to December 2, 2001
  • Castel Sant'Elmo (Naples), December 21, 2001 to February 24, 2002
  • Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia (Rome), March 16 to June 16, 2002
Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna, 1575-1725 (December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 2008 to May 3, 2009

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