MAES, Nicolaes
(b. 1634, Dordrecht, d. 1693, Amsterdam)

Abraham Dismissing Hagar and Ishmael

Oil on canvas, 88 x 70 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The subject of this painting was exceedingly popular in Rembrandt's circle and with Protestant collectors. Hagar, the Egyptian hand maiden of Sarah was the mother of Ishmael, Abraham's first son. When Isaac, Sarah's son, was born Ishmael mocked his younger brother so that Sarah asked Abraham to banish him, together with his mother. Abraham provided them with bread and a bottle of water and sent them off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was spent Hagar put Ishmael under a bush to die and then sat some way off, weeping. But an angel appeared, by tradition the archangel Michael, and disclosed a well of water near by, so they were both saved. Two scenes, the banishment, and the appearance of the angel are common in 17th century Italian and Dutch painting.

The present canvas is the earliest of Maes's known paintings. He painted it when he was beginning to work independently after studying with Rembrandt for two or three years. In conception, the picture depend upon examples by Rembrandt, while the manner of execution is similar to that of other Rembrandt pupils in the 1650s.