The Finding of Moses

Friedrich Overbeck1823

Kunsthalle Bremen

Kunsthalle Bremen
Bremen, Germany

When the Egyptian Pharaoh ordered the killing of all male infants of the Israelites, Moses was set out on the Nile in a wicker basket by his mother. Her sister-in-law Miriam hid on the banks, however, and watched how the daughter of Pharaoh and her servants found the infant. Miriam suggested to Pharaoh’s daughter that the child be taken to a Jewish wet nurse, who was, of course, Jochebed, thus reuniting mother and child by means of her cunning (Exod. 1􀀀10). In his composition, Johann Friedrich Overbeck combines the finding of the boy and his return to his mother, a reference to Raphael’s Moses Saved from the Water of 1519 in the loggias of the Vatican. Without knowing the true mother, Pharaoh’s daughter points to the central mother–child relationship with her uniting gesture. Likewise, the white cloth on the lap of the mother corresponds with the white cloth in the basket. Overbeck, the son of a Lübeck senator, was the intellectual leader of the Nazarenes, who sought to renew religious painting by resorting to Christian art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This Bremen painting was directly commissioned from the painter in 1821 by Johann Heinrich Albers, the cofounder and patron of the Kunstverein.


  • Title: The Finding of Moses
  • Creator: Friedrich Overbeck
  • Date Created: 1823
  • Physical Dimensions: 44.0 x 59.0 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen
  • Medium: Oil on wood

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