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Abraham and the Three AngelsEnlarge image

Abraham and the Three Angels, c. 1670-1674

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Spanish, 1617 - 1682
oil on canvas
236.2 x 261.5 cm
Purchased 1948
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4900)

Abraham welcomes unexpected visitors to his home. The three men are angels sent to announce that his wife, the aged Sarah, will miraculously bear him a son who will become the father of the Jewish people. Christian tradition interprets the story as the prefiguration of the events to come in the New Testament, and the three angels as the Trinity. It is also an exemplary image of charity: Murillo shows the angels as pilgrims, with Abraham humbly begging them to accept his hospitality. The duty of sheltering the homeless was one of the seven Acts of Mercy and this painting comes from a set of canvases illustrating the Acts. The set was commissioned by a brotherhood devoted to charity for the church of the Hospital de la Caridad in Seville; the paintings are now dispersed around the world. Frame: carved wood, gilded. Britain, c. 1840. Made for the work

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