Hagar in the Wilderness, 1835
Camille Corot (French, 1796–1875)
Oil on canvas; 71 x 106 1/2 in. (180.3 x 270.5 cm)
Signed and dated (lower left): COROT / 18; stamped? (lower right): VENTE / COROT
Rogers Fund, 1938 (38.64)
This picture, shown at the Salon of 1835, is the earliest of four large ambitious biblical paintings that Corot exhibited in the 1830s and 1840s. Like the Museum's Destruction of Sodom (184344; 29.100.18), it illustrates the story of the family of Abraham, the father of Israel. Hagar, the servant of Abraham's wife Sarah, bore Abraham's son Ishmael. Later, when Isaac was born to Sarah, she drove Hagar and Ishmael into the desert of Beersheba. For this painting, Corot chose the moment of divine salvation of the mother and child (Genesis 21:1517). Following an old pictorial tradition, Corot has included the angel from an earlier episode in which the pregnant Hagar, expelled by Sarah, was sent back to her by an angel (Genesis 16:79).
Corot began this work just before his second trip to Italy in 1834 and finished it upon his return to Paris. The arid scene is based in part on sketches he had made outside Rome in 182528. It also recalls barren areas of the Forest of Fontainebleau which Corot had begun to paint in the early 1820s. The large tree in the background is based on Corot's study Fontainebleau: Oak Trees at Bas-Bréau (1832 or 1833; 1979.404), also in the Museum's collection.