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Elisha Multiplying the Widow's Oil

ca. 1570-1575
38 1/4 x 56 in. (97.2 x 142.2 cm)

Unknown, Netherlandish
Netherlandish

Object Type: Painting
Medium and Support: Oil on panel
Credit Line: Gift of James O. Belden
Accession Number: 1977.187
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Location: Not currently on view

The inscription on the steps in this painting identifies the subject as a rarely depicted episode in the life of Elisha (II Kings 2:23-25). Presaging Christ’s acts of charity, the Old Testament prophet is shown alleviating the poverty of a widow by miraculously providing her with oil to sell.

The widow, in great debt and concerned that a creditor would take her two sons to be bondsmen, approached Elisha for help. When he asked if she owned anything of value, she replied that she had only a pot of oil. Elisha instructed the widow to borrow as many vessels as possible from all her neighbors. She poured her small amount of oil into each vessel; each of them remained full. When she told Elisha of the miracle, he said “Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt; you and your children shall live from the rest.”

Marks
Back of canvas covered with aluminum backing board. No marks on frame.


Provenance
[Possibly included in a sale at Mr. Stanley's, London, July 17, 1824, as lot 22, "Elisha and the Widow's Cruise of Oil" by an artist of the Flemish school, where it was bought in;] private collector; sold, Sotheby's, London; Unknown dealer, London, 1950s; James O. Belden, Washington DC; his gift to the Gallery in 1977

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