Sara, Abraham and Hagar – two paintings from Matthias Stom

I have been visiting Gemäldegalerie for the exhibition “El siglo de oro” and I have been very moved by a painting from Matthias Stom, a Dutch golden age painter.

“Sarah showing in Hagar to Abraham” (source: Wikimedia):


“Sarah leading Hagar to Abraham” (source: Wikimedia):


At the museum I found the second version of the painting. I felt as I were in the room, in the silence of the scene.

The first painting, that I later found on Wikimedia, shows a more lively scene, where Sarah is at the side, the center of the scene is taken by the young body of Hagar, her bright red cloth, and Abraham raises from his bed, can’t wait to have her near him, takes the red cloth with a strong grasp. There are many symbols in the scene that I haven’t decoded, but the overall impression to me is that it is a classical rendition of this biblical extract.

The second painting is very different in the sentiments. Hagar is now on the side of the scene, she looks a bit scared and unsure. Sarah is next to her and offers Hagar’s arm to Abraham, with a quite official pose. Her look is directed neither to his husband nor to Hagar, it is lost in the air in front of her. She has a half-smile on her face, I can’t say why. Abraham, that I noticed first in this painting, is sort of surprised. His hand makes a open gesture, his face is perplexed, as if he didn’t expect this turn of events, as if he has no interest in what is going to happen. I felt so near these three characters, as if they were actors who didn’t believe in their parts, but had orders to complete their tasks.