This painting, by the Italian artist Domenichino (aka Domenico Zampieri, c. 1581-1641), was inspired by the famous biblical story of Moses and the burning bush. It was one of three miracles that were said to have convinced Moses to become a champion to the Hebrews in Egypt. The burning bush episode appears early in the Book of Exodus, occurring when Moses was in the wilderness overseeing a flock of sheep that belonged to an Egyptian priest. The religious text described what happened next:
“There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.’ When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’ ‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob… I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt’” (Exodus 3:2-10, NIV translation).
It is this scene of Moses and the burning bush that Domenichino re-creates in his painting. The artwork is dominated by a landscape brushed in shades of blue and green. At the bottom of the painting, however, a sandal-less Moses can be found, draped in a red cloak, and standing in front of the sheep that he had been tasked with watching. Beside him, painted in fiery yellows and oranges, is the burning bush.
Written by C. Keith Hansley