Bartholomeus Breenbergh 1598 – 1657

Moses and Aaron Changing the Nile to Blood

oil on panel (58 × 83 cm) — 1631 Museum J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Bartholomeus Breenbergh biography

This work is linked to Exodus 7:20

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Moses had asked Pharaoh for permission to leave Egypt with his people. When Pharaoh refused, God punished Egypt with ten plagues.

This is the first plague: with his rod Moses' brother Aaron changes the water in the river into blood. The Egyptians could no longer drink the water or use it to irrigate their lands.

But Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites go.

For some reason the plagues have rarely been depicted in art. Breenbergh here situated the first plague in a landscape with Romanesque ruins. He used translucent colours in several layers to create atmospheric perspective. Moses points to Aaron. Pharaoh looks on and is shocked when he sees all the blood, as is his company. He wears an ermine-lined cape, just like European kings did.

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