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Hendrick de Clerck

Moses Striking the Rock


Hendrick de Clerck
Brussels about 1570 – Brussels 1630


Moses Striking the Rock


About 1610


Tempera and oil on wood


170 x 133 cm


Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 1979.8


Western Art

De Clerck, the foremost Flemish exponent of Mannerism, was court painter to Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella of Brussels. The Museum possess two paintings of the same subject by the same artist, dating from different periods in his career. In the earlier octagonal version, de Clerck shows the artificiality, contortion of figures, exoticism and luxuriousness typical of High Mannerist art. In this work, dated nearly twenty years later, de Clerck has modified his style in response to a new naturalism in Italian art as well as to the demands of the Counter-Reformation that paintings convey their subjects more directly. The poses of the individual figures are less contorted, their draperies and vessels less rich, and the composition less dense. De Clerck here shows a desire to be, if not more historically accurate, at least less theatrical. De Clerck was known both for small cabinet pictures and for large altarpieces. Although the subject of Moses striking the rock is biblical (Exodus 17:5-6), it has been suggested that these paintings were not intended for churches but for private dining rooms, where they would have reminded diners to be grateful to God for their sustenance.

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