Lawrence Alma-Tadema - The Finding of Moses

by Alexandra Tuschka


The topic around the finding of Moses experienced a revival among the Orientalists, so also here with the Dutchman Alma-Tadema.  Alma-Tadema was invited to Egypt by the civil engineer Sir John Aried, who helped build the Aswan Dam, and was able to study Egyptian culture at length. 


We see the pharaoh's daughter being carried out of the left edge of the picture by some bar-headed slaves and pretty slave girls. Next to her, Moses, who has just been pulled out of the Nile, in his decorated wicker basket. It almost seems like a parade and in no way reminds of older depictions of the same subject. The pharaoh's daughter holds a mallet and a lotus blossom in her hand, indicating her royal origin; her feet rest on a ledge on which a subject can be seen with his hands tied behind his back. This is symbolic of the oppressed Hebrew people whom Moses will lead to freedom in his lifetime. This aspect is also echoed in the background, where dark-skinned slave drivers herd lighter-skinned crowds around. The blue delphinium frames the image and provides a bold expanse of color in the foreground. The figure reaching into the picture on the left may be based on a figure Seti II in the British Museum. 


Lawrence Alma-Tadema - The Finding of Moses

Oil on canvas, 1904, 136.7 × 213.4 cm

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