The battle between the Jews and the Amalekites. Etching by A. Tempesta, 1609.

  • Tempesta, Antonio, 1555-1630.
[between 1609 and 1613]
  • Pictures

About this work


Bible, O.T. Exodus XVII. 8-13: a battle in which the Jews commanded by Joshua defeated the army of Amalek. In the centre is a ferocous clash between cavalry on each side. Left and right, the two infantry forces. Centre background, elephants in battle

In the top left corner, Moses watches from a hillside, raising his hand in order to ensure an Israelite victory; his arm is propped up by Aaron and Hur: "And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." (Exodus XVII. 9-13)


Romae [Rome] : Nic. va(n) Aelst Bruxellensis formis Sup. permissu, [between 1609 and 1613]

Physical description

1 print : etching ; image 49 x 78 cm


Hebraeorum victoria ab Amalechitis reportata. Ad fortissimum militem et in Belgio gloriosum D. Pompeum Targonum status ecclesiastici gub. generalem artellariae, et arcibus muniendis praefectum. Antonius Tempesta devoti animi monumentum. Antoni. Temp. f. a. MDCVIIII Tempesta's authorship statement, "Antoni. Temp. f. a. MDCVIIII", is etched around the saddle-girth of a horse in the foreground, like a painter's signature in a painting, rather than in the panel below, as in an engraving

References note

Adam Bartsch, Le peintre graveur, Vienna 1818, vol. XVII, p. 128, no. 234 ("Bataille des Hébreux contre les Amalécites. Grande pièce composée de deux planches jointes en largeur.")
Michael Bury, The print in Italy 1550-1620, London 2001, no. 53


Wellcome Collection 3044073i

Creator/production credits

"This is a spectacular example of the kind of print with which Tempesta established a European reputation; a complex battle handled with dramatic chiaroscuro and demonstrating an extraordinary range of invention in the movements and gestures of men and horses. It was mentioned as famous by Baglione (1642, p. 398). The fertility of Tempesta's imagination made him one of the most prolific printmakers of any period. The sense of dynamic speed that he could communicate through his handling of the etching process gave his work an immense appeal to many artists, including even the most distinguished such as Rubens and Velazquez. Tempesta dedicated it to the military engineer Pompeo Targone (1575-c. 1630), a man who, after a distinguished career fighting for the Spaniards in the Low Countries, had been called back to Rome by Paul V (1605-1621). The Pope had appointed him general of the papal artillery and Prefect in charge of the fortresses of the papal states (Promis, 1874, p.810). Following what had become quite a standard practice, Tempesta will have presented impressions of the print to Targone in the expectation of a substantial gift from the grateful dedicatee. He will then have made a further profit through the sale of the plates to the print dealer Van Aelst. The impression illustrated is an example of the second state, with the addition of Van Aelst's address. As the etching is dated 1609 and Van Aelst died in 1613, Tempesta must have sold him the plates not long after he made them " (Bury, loc. cit.)



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