May 17, 2022
Mar 8, 2022

Balaam and the Ass

Balaam and the Ass


Hans Bol

(Flemish, 1534–1593)

Gouache heightened with gold on vellum laid down on panel

Sheet: 13.7 x 19.6 cm (5 3/8 x 7 11/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2022.3


Did you know?

This work is mounted on panel, suggesting that it was once inlaid into a piece of furniture or wainscotting in a wealthy 16th-century home.


While this small miniature, made with watercolor on parchment, depicts a scene from the Old Testament in the left foreground, its primary subject is the expansive rural scene, landscape, and distant hillside city beyond. Hans Bol combined realistic city views, based on his onsite observation, with imaginary scenes and narratives, appealing to his late-16th-century urban Netherlandish audience. The story of the Balaam and the Ass was associated with greed in the period. The miniature was likely paired with other scenes highlighting contemporary moral issues to be displayed together in a domestic setting.


Balaam and the Ass
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