by Alexandra Tuschka
Three people step out of an ancient building. Abraham leads the body maid Hagar and the common son Ishmael into the distance. Hagar must leave the house because she was no longer tolerated by Sarah, Abraham's wife. From a window, Sara's biological son Isaac observes the parting.
Sarah, because of her old age, could not bear any more children. As tradition demanded, the body maid Hagar had to give her own sons to the mistress. She gave birth to Ishmael. Sarah surprisingly became pregnant some time later - Isaac was born. Out of ill will, Hagar and Ishmael were to leave the house - Sarah wanted to be the only woman in the house. Abraham, who loved both sons, agreed only after a vision of God and finally expelled the Egyptian woman.
In Lorrain's painting, Abraham leads Hagar and the son out into the open. Through a pointing gesture, he also directs the viewer's gaze into the vast landscape. No destination is in sight. Both set off into the unknown.
Nevertheless, the landscape has a calming effect: the lake is still, the sun bathes the scene in a warm evening light, two goats graze on the path. Nothing yet indicates that Hagar should soon get lost with her son.
Lorrain, who loved landscape and architecture, often builds the people into his paintings as if they were incidental. And yet these very figures were indispensable to enhance the painting in terms of academic classifications. Without them it would be a simple landscape painting - now we have a history painting, which was considered by the Academy as the highest painting art.
Claude Lorrain - The Expulsion of Hagar
Oil on canvas, 1668, 106.5 x 140.3 cm, Bavarian State Painting Collection in Munich