METSU, Gabriel
(b. 1629, Leiden, d. 1667, Amsterdam)

The Dismissal of Hagar

Oil on canvas, 112 x 86 cm
Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden

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.

Gabriel Metsu's painting of the subject is highly indebted to the work of the Italianate painter Jan Weenix from Utrecht. The Italianate landscape in the background with its stone bridge and ruinous tower set against mountains, possibly refers to the wilderness mentioned in the biblical text Hagar's dress and white body linen, her straw hat and sandles identify her as a shepherdess common in Italianate paintings of the time.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.