For the last twenty years the series of six biblical scenes to which this canvas belongs has been attributed to the circle of Juan de la Corte (grandfather of Gabriel, the celebrated flower painter). Documented as a painter active in Madrid in 1613, a series of works dated between 1623 and 1642 are known by his hand. De la Corte failed to become Court Painter in 1627 as this place was not filled, while in 1638 he paid the highest amount of any Madrid painter to the tax authorities for his sold works. Numerous signed and unsigned works of varying quality produced by De la Corte’s studio are known. There are surviving series on the Trojan War and the Victories of Charles V while documentary evidence indicates the presence of around 40 works in the Buen Retiro Palace and the Alcázar in Madrid on biblical, mythological and historical subjects and landscapes.
This episode (Exodus 14, 15-31) is structured through a foreground filled with the Pharoah’s great chariot, horses and Egyptian soldiers with flags and lances arranged at an angle. Some of the figures are drowning in the foreground while in the distance on the opposite shore is a great crowd of Israelites, depicted on a small scale, who have reached safety. The horizon is barely broken by a low hill. These elements are characteristic of Juan de la Corte who used compositions derived from prints. The weakness of the draughtsmanship and inconsistencies in the figures suggest that this is a workshop production.