"The story of Hagar is told in Genesis, Chapter 21. Hagar was an Egyptian slave to Abraham with whom she had a son, Ishmael. Abraham's wife became jealous and asked her husband to banish them into the desert. There, they were miraculously saved from dying of thirst by an angel. A print by Frans De Roy of c. 1750 shows there was once an angel in the sky and the infant lying at the bottom of the tree, which were painted out sometime after.
The model is likely to be Rubens’ second wife, Helena Fourment. Despite the Old Testament setting, Fourment is dressed in the fashion and hairstyle of Flanders in the 1630s, making this painting an ambiguous play between portrait and biblical story. "