Friday, August 21, 2009

Pharaoh's daughter as Patron

Everybody knows the story of Moses. That he was set adrift on the Nile River in a basket because his mother wanted to save his live. That he was Pharaoh's daughter, who adopted him as her own son, so that he grew up as a younger brother to the future Rameses II. As a political and religious leader, lawgiver, and prophet Moses is probably the most important figure in the Bible. Nevertheless I’m more interested in Pharaoh's daughter.

In Jewish texts she is called Thermuthis and it is said that she later fled with the Jews during the Exodus and became Jewish by marriage. Despite she is not very important in the Bible - she is not even named there – she was very attractive to painters. In the interpretation of art she was a very important noble woman, something like a queen, who adopted a poor orphan and arranged his future. So she was the ideal symbol for any kind of patronage or sponsorship.

Paintings of Pharaoh's daughter were popular among mighty women, to show their generosity, their love, their maternally gifts. Among artists they were popular to appeal for sponsorship. Pharaoh's daughter has to be seen therefore as a patron of the arts.

Finding of Moses (1638-40)

Moses saved (1651)

These two examples are by the French painter Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), who is considered as the founder of the French Classical tradition at the end of the Baroque era. Interesting is the classical architecture in the background. A pyramid and an obelisk are symbolizing Egypt, but the costumes are like a classical artist would have imagined Greeks or Romans.

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