Giovanni Lanfranco 1582 – 1647

The Messengers Return from Canaan

oil on canvas (218 × 246 cm) — 1621 - 1624 Museum J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

This work is linked to Numbers 13:27

Tags: Joshua | Moses

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During the journey to the promised land Moses sends twelve men ahead to explore it. One man from each tribe, including Joshua. After 40 days they return and report to Moses. They show a huge cluster of grapes, and pomegranates and figs. "surely it floweth with milk and honey", they say.

But they also tell of the strong nations that live in large walled cities in Canaan. The people become scared and start to complain again: why didn't we stay in Egypt. God is tired of the whining and decides that the Israelites will need to dwell in the desert for another 40 years.

Lanfranco shows the story from a low angle, making the figures even more monumental. The canvas was one in a series that hung high on the walls of the church San Paolo fuori le Mura (St-Paul outside the walls) in Rome.

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