The Angel Appearing to Hagar

WAG 957


In the Old Testament, Hagar was the servant and mistress of Abraham, whose son Ishmael she bore. Mother and child were banished into the wilderness at the request of Abraham’s jealous wife, and when Hagar ran out of water she abandoned Ishmael to die and sat down and wept. At this point an angel revealed a nearby well to her, and promised future prosperity for the boy if she would take him up again. The subject was popular with Rembrandt’s pupils, who were attracted by themes of sympathy, charity and forgiveness. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.