Paolo Veronese - The Finding of Moses

by Alexandra Tuschka


The Pharaoh's daughter actually just wanted to take a dip in the Nile. This turns into a real court spectacle! Of course, she does this in the company of her staff - even a court dwarf is there. Through him, Veronese most obviously reveals his ignorance of Egyptian culture and draws on court life, which was familiar to him from Europe, where court dwarfs were often present to amuse the rulers. The buildings in the background are also clearly borrowed from an Italian contemporary city. 


In the water currents, however, something came to her that she had not expected - a newborn boy swimming in a basket on the Nile! In this picture he is received by two servants. These are in the process of wrapping him in a cloth, which, as it were, compositionally acts like a screen within a screen or a curtain - the boy is presented to Pharaoh's daughter. She is still skeptical. Her posture reveals that she does not yet know what to do with the situation. She is clearly set off from the others by her clothing and crown and is barely overlapped by them. The three persons at the right edge of the picture intensify the attention by their gestures to the center of the picture. In the lower left edge of the picture, another servant shows us the empty basket from which the boy has just been taken. 


Although Pharaoh has ordered all Hebrew children to be killed, the child touches the heart of Pharaoh's daughter. She calls him "Moses" because she "pulled him out of the water." The name equally means "son" in Egyptian. 


Paolo Veronese - The Finding of Moses

Oil on canvas, 1575 - 1580, 57 × 43 cm, National Gallery in Washington DC