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 The Burning of Sodom, it illustrates the story of the family of Abraham. Because his wife, Sarah, was elderly and barren, Abraham fathered a son, Ishmael, with their servant, Hagar. Later, when Sarah bore her own son, Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael were driven away into the desert of Beersheba. For this painting, Corot chose the moment of their divine salvation.
The largely arid landscape is Corot’s invention, but is partially based on nature studies including the Museum’s Fontainebleau: Oak Trees at Bas-Bréau.