133
133
Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert
JOSHUA CARRIES THE ARK OF THE COVENANT AROUND JERICHO; THE SACRIFICE OF ELIJAH AND THE PRIESTS OF BAAL
Estimate
40,00060,000
LOT SOLD. 50,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
133
Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert
JOSHUA CARRIES THE ARK OF THE COVENANT AROUND JERICHO; THE SACRIFICE OF ELIJAH AND THE PRIESTS OF BAAL
Estimate
40,00060,000
LOT SOLD. 50,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

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Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert
DURGERDAM 1591 - 1655 AMSTERDAM
JOSHUA CARRIES THE ARK OF THE COVENANT AROUND JERICHO; THE SACRIFICE OF ELIJAH AND THE PRIESTS OF BAAL
Quantity: 2
both signed with monogram and dated lower left: CL M. f1648. (CL in ligature)
a pair, both oil on oak panel
each: 23 3/8  by 32 7/8  in.; 59.5 by 83.5 cm.
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Provenance

Municipal or private collection, Freiburg im Breisgau;
Whence sold, Frankfurt, Rudolf Bangel, 19-23 April 1921, lots 173 and 174 (as Benjamin Gerritsz. Cuyp);
Private collection, Berlin;
Private collection, Hesse;
Anonymous sale, Munich, Karl & Faber, 19 May 2017, lots 12 and 13.

Literature

A. Tümpel, 'Claes Cornelisz. Moeyaert. Katalog der Gemälde', in Oud Holland, vol. 88, no. 4, 1974, pp. 254 and 256, cat. nos 70 and 83, reproduced figs 226 (erroneously captioned as 227) and 232, respectively;
C. Moiso-Diekamp, Das Pendant in der holländischen Malerei des 17. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt am Main/Bern/New York 1987, p. 395, cat. no. B1 (Joshua as The Philistines Bring Back the Ark).

Catalogue Note

The two works here described are pendants, a relative rarity within Claes Moyaert’s oeuvre. Among the 313 paintings listed by Astrid Tümpel in her catalogue raisonné of the artist, only four pairs are to be found, while a fifth is mentioned by Moiso-Diekamp. Each of the five pairs shares a clearly identifiable and related subjects: three pairs depicting the three themes of Bathseba; Mercury, Argos and Io; Bacchic Scenes; two scenes from Danish royal history; and two deathbed portraits of Roman Catholic pastors.1 In contrast, the present two works, depicting episodes from the Old Testament, are less readily reconcilable with each other, mostly because interpreting the subject of the former in the pair – depicting a procession with the Ark of the Covenant – has until now proven difficult to confirm. Previously described as King David with the Ark of the Covenant, thus referring to the story of King David entering Jerusalem with the ark (2 Samuel 6), it in fact illustrates Joshua Carrying the Ark of the Covenant Around Jericho. Taken from Joshua 6:3-5, the original text describes the composition with greater accuracy:

‘You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.’ 

The narrative elements of the text fit with Moyaert’s painting, whose military aspect is likewise satisfyingly explained. The ruler on the white horse is Joshua, with the Judean Lion on his shield, the symbol of the Israelites. The town on the top of the hill must therefore be Jericho. Pictorial tradition usually shows Jericho already falling. Presumably, Moyaert wanted to emphasize the aspect of putting trust in God, of obedience and following His divine will, rather than showing the immediate proof of His will through its falling.

The actual result of steadfastness and perseverance in God’s word, then, is the theme of the pendant, which depicts the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel as told in 1 Kings 18, an episode that takes place centuries later. It is crucial here to understand that the words spoken by Joshua upon Jericho’s destruction – ‘Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates’ (Joshua 6:26) – are directly relatable to this later episode, thus providing the connection between Moyaert’s pendants that was unclear until now.

In the latter scene, staged at Mount Carmel, Elijah confronts those gathered, asking of them: ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). He then challenges Baal’s prophets to a sacrificial contest: both prepare a bull, on the condition that no fire is lit, but that each will call upon his God to set fire to the offering. The prophets of Baal – mocked by Elijah – limped around the altar from morning until noon, crying ‘Oh Baal, answer us! […] and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them’ (1 Kings 18:26-28), but nothing happened. Then it was Elijah’s turn. After calling all the people to come near, preparing the bull and repairing the altar with twelve stones ‘according to the number of the tribes of Israel’, he commanded three times to pour water over the offering and the wood. This being done, he called upon God, who instantaneously set fire to the offering, bewildering those gathered, saying ‘The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God!’ (1 Kings 18:39). Moyaert shows us the false prophets of Baal on the top of the hill, calling in vain upon their god. In the foreground, Elijah outspreads his arms, while behind him the shocked king Ahab, on horseback, fearfully observes God’s miracle. While three men with buckets pour water on the altar, the Lord’s lightning sets fire to the offering, astonishing the people of precarious faith, who are consequently re-affirmed in their true belief.

1. Tümpel 1974, cat. nos. 70, 83 (the present pendants, 1648); 75, 76 (two works depicting Bathseba, mentioned in the death inventory of Balthasar Schouten of 1682);
163, C2/C3 (two works depicting Mercury, Argos and Io, before 1624); 186, 187 (The
Funeral of a Heathen King and The Baptism of Harald Bluetooth, painted for Christian
IV, 1643); 292, 295 (deathbed portraits of Leonardus Marius and Nicolaes Verwer (as
Joan Banningh Wuytiers) on their respective deathbeds 1652, 1647). Moiso-Diekamp
1987, p. 395, no. C1 mentions a set of two Bacchic Scenes in the collection of
Sir Francis Dashwood at West Wycombe Park (Buckinghamshire), without further
information.

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