Overview

Sébastien Bourdon was one of the twelve founding members of the Royal Academy of Painting and his Finding of Moses embodies the principles of seventeenth-century academic art, which showed the influence of Poussin.

The book of Exodus (2:5) recounts how a Hebrew woman saved her infant son from Pharoah's massacre of Hebrew children by placing him in a basket on the Nile. Pharoah's daughter, while bathing on the banks of the river, found the child, adopted him, and named him Moses. In Bourdon's composition, Pharoah's daughter, dressed in yellow, occupies the central vertical axis of the painting, supported on her left by her ladies in waiting. The figures form a frieze, like antique sculptures, across the foreground plane. They are dressed according to the seventeenth-century concept of ancient costume and placed in a fanciful setting with Egyptian palm trees.

The careful division of the composition into three parallel planes of space recalls the principles of symmetry and order propounded by the Academy. The dignified gestures -- especially that of the princess -- and expressions of the figures tell the story in a way considered appropriate to the event, but the work is also enlivened by vivid color and clarifying light. Bourdon based his composition on earlier works of the same subject by Poussin.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Possibly Adriaen Paets II [1657-1712], Rotterdam; possibly (his sale, Rotterdam, 26 April 1713, no. 19).[1] Possibly François Antoine Robit [c. 1752-1815], Paris; (exhibition and sale, including Robit collection, by private contract, Mr. [Michael] Bryan's Gallery, London, 6 November 1801 and following days [exhibition closed 31 May 1802], no. 44).[2] Arthur L. Nicholson, London and Llandaff House, Surrey, by 1937 until at least 1939.[3] (Paul Drey, New York); sold 1948 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1961 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1802
Possibly [exhibition of ancient and modern paintings], Edward Savage's Columbian Gallery, New York, 1802, no. 4.
1937
Chefs d'Oeuvre de l'Art français, Palais National des Arts, Paris, 1937, no. 65.
1939
Rétrospective d'Art: Peinture, Sculpture, Tapisserie, Gravure, Art Japonais; Grande Saison Internatinale de l'Eau, Liège, 1939, no. 24, repro.
1948
A Group of Old Master Paintings, Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester, 1948, no cat.
1948
Possibly California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1948.
1982
France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-Century French Paintings in American Collections, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago, 1982, no. 11, repro.
2000
Sébastien Bourdon: 1616-1671, Pavillon du Musée Fabre, Montpellier; Galerie de l'Ancienne Douane, Strasbourg, 2000-2001, no. 170, repro.
2005
The Splendor of Ruins in French Landscape Painting 1630-1800, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2005, no. 9, repro.

Bibliography

1956
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Colllection Acquired by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation 1951-56. Introduction by John Walker, text by William E. Suida and Fern Rusk Shapley. National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1956: 40, no. 11, repro.
1959
Cooke, Hereward Lester. French Paintings of the 16th-18th Centuries in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Four in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 22, color repro.
1959
Gottesman, Rita Susswein. "New York's First Major Art Show as Reviewed by its First Newspaper Critic in 1802 and 1803." New York Historical Society Quarterly. vol. 43 (July 1959): 289-305, repro.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 340, repro.
1964
Rosenberg, Pierre. "Quelques tableaux inédits du XVIIe siècle français par Jacques Stella, Charles Mellin, Jean Tassel et Sébastien Bourdon." Art de France 4 (1964): 299, note 14.
1964
Thuillier, Jacques, and Albert Châtelet. French Painting from Le Nain to Fragonard. Geneva, 1964: 76, repro. 78.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 19.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 12, repro.
1970
Fowle, Geraldine Elizabeth. "The Biblical Paintings of Sébastien Bourdon." Ph.D. diss., 2 vols., The University of Michigan, 1970: I:92-97, II:no. 5.
1970
Rosenberg, Pierre, and Thuillier, Jacques. "The Finding of Moses by La Hyre." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 49, no. 2 (1970): 31 note 12.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 44, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 423, color repro.
1976
Bjurström, Per. French Drawings: Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Stockholm, 1976: under no. 173, note 3.
1977
Eisler, Colin. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: European Schools Excluding Italian. Oxford, 1977: 289-290, fig. 257.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 317, no. 419, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 66, repro.
1985
Wright, Christopher. The French Painters of the Seventeenth Century. New York, 1985: pl. 9.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 165, repro.
1995
Merot, Alain. French Painting in the Seventeenth Century. New Haven and London, 1995: 139, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 174, no. 135, color repro.
2009
Conisbee, Philip, et al. French Paintings of the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 2009: no. 8, 44-48, color repro.

Technical Summary

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