The Discovery of Moses
Hans III Jordaens was born around 1595, probably in Antwerp. Little is known with certainty about his early life; there is still discussion on where and with whom he learnt to paint. Although a family connection has been suggested with Hans I Jordaens and even Jacob Jordaens, none of this has been conclusively proven. The records do reveal that in 1617 Jordaens married Maria van Dijck; in 1620 he joined the guild of St Luke. He seems to have done well for himself as a painter, for by 1624 he already lived in a large house in Antwerp.
Few paintings by him are known; stylistically however, Hans III Jordaens was very close to Frans II Francken, with whom he collaborated from time to time. It is therefore entirely possible that paintings which today are attributed to the Francken workshop were in fact done by Hans III Jordaens. Confirmed paintings by him are few and far between; he is known to have painted the subject of The Crossing of the Red Sea several times, as well as a few collector’s cabinets. He also probably painted the figures in several works for landscape painters Abraham Govaerts – several of whose works he finished after his death – and Joos de Momper.
The present work depicts the Finding of Moses, another story from the Old Testament. According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt’s enemies. Moses’ Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites. Through the Pharaoh’s daughter, the child was adopted as a foundling from the Nile river and grew up with the Egyptian royal family.
As Jordaens seems to have produced many works depicting scenes from the Old Testament, and more specifically episodes that were crucial to Jewish history, it is possible that he worked for a Jewish clientele, although this has not been conclusively proven.
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