The Jewish people fleeing from Egypt crossed the Red Sea in between two walls of water. At God’s demand Moses brought the water down onto the pursuing Egyptian army.
Several versions of various qualities of this cinematographic composition have been attributed to Hans Jordaens III. Although our painting seems fully signed, it seems safer to give it to the workshop, although compositions of the same quality are still being given to Hans Jordaens III in full. A smaller version, probably painted by the same hand, was sold at Cambi Auction House in Genoa in 2009 for 16.335 € as “Attributed to Hans Jordaens III.
About Hans Jordaens III
Birthplace unknown (probably Antwerp) circa 1595 - 1643 Antwerp.
He was nicknamed "Lange Jan", "Tall Jan".
Painter of history scenes, of genre scenes and of representations of collector’s galleries.
Pupil of his father, Hans Jordaens II (Antwerp 1581 - Antwerp 1635).
He became a master in the Antwerp Painters’ Guild of Saint Luke around 1619/1620.
On 26 November 1617 Hans III married Maria van Dijck, by whom he had five children.
He appears to have been a fairly successful painter: although his father is said to have been a poor man, Hans III was living in a large house in 1624.
Jordaens worked not only as an individual painter, he was also active as a staffage painter: he painted figures in other specialists’ paintings, for example in the landscapes of Joos de Momper II, in the perspective views (architectural scenes) of Paul Vredeman de Vries and probably also in the landscapes of Alexander Keirincx.
After the sudden death of the landscape painter Abraham Govaerts in September 1626 he was one of the painters responsible for finishing some of the latter’s works.
Arnold Houbraken, himself a painter, published between 1718 and 1721 3 volumes of his reference work describing the lives of a large number of the painters of the previous centuries, called "De Grote Schouburgh der Nederlandsche Konstschilders en Schilderessen". In his entry upon “Hans Jordaans” he confuses three painters, Hans I, III and IV.
About the Crossing of the Red Sea
The Israelite escape from Egypt, led by Moses, is called the Exodus.
The people of Israel had lived as slaves in Egypt for 430 years. Its Pharaoh was afraid that there were too many of them and he had ordered that the newborn boys would be thrown into the Nile. One woman had put here baby into a small reed boat and set it adrift. A princess, the daughter of the pharaoh, found the baby and raised Moses, as she called the baby.
God asked Moses to lead the Hebrew people into Canaan, the land he had promised to Abraham. After ten terrible plagues had hit Egypt Pharaoh accepted the release of the Israelites, but once they had left he pursued them with an army of chariots.
God separated the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross it, walking on dry ground in between two walls of water. When they reached the other side the sea became normal again, thus drowning the entire Egyptian army (Exodus 14:1-29).
About our painting
Hans Jordaens III loved painting densely populated scenes taken from the Ancient Testament. By far his favourite and most popular subject was the Crossing of the Red Sea.
At the left side of our painting two women have opened a chest holding a treasure. Pharaoh had only capitulated after the tenth plague that God inflicted upon Egypt: he killed every single firstborn child. In Exodus 12:33 is described how, just before leaving, the Israelites plundered Egypt: they asked and got from the Egyptians articles of silver and gold and clothing.
Behind this scene people are looking at the mortal remains of Joseph, laying in a sarcophagus. Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, had been sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, came to Egypt and ended as the Vizier or Viceroy of Egypt, after he had explained correctly to Pharaoh his disturbing dreams of the seven years of abundance and of famine.
Joseph had told the Israelites ‘God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place”.
In the right lower centre of the painting two men are watching over the tumultuous sea. One of them is Moses. At sunrise, at the order of God he has stretched out his hand over the sea, thus bringing down the waters of the Red Sea onto Pharaoh’s army.
There exist many 17th century Flemish representations of the Crossing of the Red Sea:
- one, signed by Frans Francken II (Antwerp 1581 – 1642 Antwerp) and dated 1621, is at Tyntesfield, a grand Victorian house in North Somerset, near Bristol in the UK.
- Francken himself must have painted some other versions of this inventive composition, some of them possibly with help of his workshop and others entirely by the workshop.
- To Hans Jordaens III, who was indeed strongly influenced by Frans Francken II, a fair number of representations of the Crossing of the Red Sea have been rightly or wrongly attributed; very few of them are signed.
- A smaller version, probably painted by the same hand, was sold at Cambi Auction House in Genoa in 2009 for 16.335 € as “Attributed to Hans Jordaens III.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it reminds you of the grand, epic movie from 1956 “The Ten Commandments” by Cecil B. DeMille.