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Moses Striking Water from the Rock
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Jacob Jordaens
Flemish, Antwerp, about 1645 - 1650
Oil on canvas
51 x 106 in.
79.PA.136

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A crowd of Israelites gathers to observe a dramatic Old Testament miracle. After they wandered in the wilderness of the Sinai desert without water, God saved them by instructing Moses to strike a rock with his staff, whereupon fresh water gushed out.

Jacob Jordaens conveyed the scene's drama through energetic motion and repetition. Using a characteristically Baroque sweeping horizontal composition, he effortlessly interwove human figures and animals into a frieze that follows from left to right, from anticipation--with jars and drinking vessels at the ready--to Moses' theatrical gesture. The figures' proportions and subtle foreshortening indicate that Jordaens intended the picture to be viewed from below.

Here Jordaens repeated a subject he had first attempted nearly three decades earlier, following his usual practice of reworking ideas and finding new solutions. As here, the devoted Calvinist Jordaens often made instructive, rather than devotional, religious pictures.