Hendrick de Clerck
Brussels about 1570 – Brussels 1630
Moses Striking the Rock
Tempera and oil on wood
170 x 133 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 1979.8
In the middle ground of a lush outdoor leisure scene, Moses strikes the rock at Horeb. Water gushes forth into the vessels of adulating Israelites and wends its way to the foreground, where it is carefully poured into the pearly shell cup of a regal matriarch. The artist alludes to the Holy Land by including camels and turbaned people with deeper skin tones. This serves a formal function as well. The figural pairings on the right in particular play with skin tone as a point of contrast, along with gender and pose. When the artist painted this same subject twenty years earlier, in an octagonal format (on view nearby), he placed Moses at centre and gave all figures similar skin tones, thus arriving at very different compositional flows, emphases and narrative possibilities.