Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
A baby with rays of light coming from his head sleeps in a basket on a river before a landscape of Egyptian ruins.

A light-skinned baby with his eyes closed reclines in a padded basket with his head turned toward us. Small golden rays of light radiate from his head. The basket is floating on a river, surrounded by flowering aquatic plants and birds. Behind the baby, the river extends into a background of Egyptian ruins, including the head of a sphinx, stone arches, and tall columns. The ruins are backlit in soft gold tones.

Gallery Text

Paris hosted the 1878 Exposition universelle, or world’s fair, to celebrate France’s recovery after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. For the event, Gustave Moreau submitted a cycle of biblically themed paintings to reflect on the nation’s renewal. The series, which included this work as well as Jacob and the Angel (1874–78; also in Harvard’s collection) and David (1878), marked three stages of human life. Here Moreau celebrates the anticipation and promise associated with childhood: Moses, recognized by the rays emanating from his forehead, floats in his basket on the Nile, surrounded by the ruins of ancient Egypt. In a written commentary Moreau suggested the prophet’s enlightenment, noting the contrast between “this people of mummies, sphinxes, and gods with staring eyes and unmoving gaze” and “this fine human fruit full of sap and life.”

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gustave Moreau, French (Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
The Infant Moses
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Moïse Exposé sur le Nil
Work Type
c. 1876-c. 1878
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2130, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, The Pre–Raphaelites and Their Legacy
View this object's location on our interactive map

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
185 x 136.2 cm (72 13/16 x 53 5/8 in.)
framed: 202.6 x 153 x 9.8 cm (79 3/4 x 60 1/4 x 3 7/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Gustave Moreau, 1878, sold; to Antoni Roux, 1893, sold [through his sale, Vente A. Roux at Galerie Georges Petit, 1914, no. 22]. Mme. de Saint Alary. Comte Roederer, Paris, sold; to Grenville Lindall Winthrop [via Martin Birnbaum], New York, NY, 1935, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art


The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Publication History

  • Paul Flat, "Gustave Moreau", La Revue de l'Art Ancien et Moderne (January 10 - March 10, 1898), p. 231-244, p. 45, repr.
  • Robert de Montesquiou, Un Peintre Lapidaire, Gustave Moreau, exh. cat. (Paris, France, 1906), preface, p. 20
  • Léonce Bénédite, "Deux Idealistes: Gustave Moreau et Edward Burne-Jones", La Revue de l'Art Ancien et Moderne (April - June 1910), repr. p. 67
  • Jean Laran and Léon Deshairs, Gustave Moreau, Librairie centrale des beaux-arts (Paris, France, 1913), pp. 78, 83-84, repr.
  • A. Roux Sale, auct. cat., Galerie Georges Petit (Paris, France, May 19, 1914 - May 20, 1914), no. 22
  • Lee Sheridan, "'French Symbolist Art' Timely Museum Exhibit", Springfield Daily News (February 1973)
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: with a catalogue of the finished paintings watercolors, and drawings, New York Graphic Society (Boston, MA, 1976), p. 130, catalog no. 172, p. 325; repr. in b/w p. 325, color detail p. 133
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 79, color plate; pp. 121, 237, repr. b/w cat. no. 319
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Gustave Moreau, Flammarion (Paris, France, 1991), no. 198, p. 99-100, color plate XXV
  • "Gustave Moreau", Saber ver lo Contemporaneo del Arte (1993), no. 15, text p. 52; repr. in color p. 53
  • Françoise Cachin, 1893, L'Europe des Peintres, exh. cat., Musée d'Orsay (Paris, France, 1993), repr. in b/w p. 182
  • Gustave Moreau: Gyusutavu Moro, exh. cat., Nihon Hoso Kyokai (Tokyo, Japan, 1995), p. 130-131, repr. b/w
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Maître Sorcier, Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 1997), pp. 58, 61, repr. p. 60
  • Dominique Lobstein, "Anthony Roux: Portrait d'un Collectionneur et Mécène", Dossier de l'Art (October 1998), no. 51, repr. in color p. 21
  • Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: Monographie et nouveau catalogue de l'oeuvre achevé, ACR Édition (Paris, France, 1998), no. 202, p. 337, repr; repr. in color p. 81
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: between Epic and Dream, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 1999), p. 288
  • Geneviève Lacambre, Gustave Moreau: Magic and Symbols, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1999), pp. 58, 61, repr. p. 60
  • Chikashi Kitazaki and Mina Oya, ed., Between Reality and Dreams: Nineteenth Century British and French Art from the Winthrop Collection of the Fogg Art Museum, exh. cat., National Museum of Western Art (Ueno, 2002), p. 29, repr. as fig. 18
  • Shelly Durrell, Healing the Fisher King: Spiritual Lessons with Parzival, Gump, The Grail, Tao and Star Wars, Art Tao Press (Miami, Florida, 2002), ill. p. 340
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., A Private Passion: 19th-Century Paintings and Drawings from the Grenville L. Winthrop Collection, Harvard University, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New York, 2003), repr. in color p. 32, as fig. 30
  • Stephan Wolohojian, Ingres, Burne-Jones, Whistler, Renoir... La Collection Grenville L. Winthrop, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon and Réunion des Musées Nationaux (Paris, France, 2003), repr. in color p. 40, as fig. 29
  • Peter Cooke, "Pour une Théorie de la Nature et du Paysage chez Gustave Moreau", exh. cat., Éditions Artlys (Versailles, France, 2004), pp. 32-35, repr. in color as ill. 16
  • Professor Nobuyuki Senzoku, How to Look at Fantastic Arts, Tokyo-Bijutsu Inc. (Tokyo, Japan, 2004), pp. 46-47, repr. in color
  • Paysages de Rêve de Gustave Moreau, exh. cat., Artlys (Versailles, France, 2004), pp. 32-34, repr. as ill. 16
  • Narayan Khandekar and Stephan Wolohojian, "Gustave Moreau's 'Jacob and the Angel' Re-examined", The Burlington Magazine (April 2005), vol. CXLVII, no. 1225, pp. 253-257, p. 253, repr. in color
  • Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 174, rep.
  • Peter Cooke, Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality and Symbolism, Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2014), pp. 96, 97, 101, repr. p. 100 as fig. 59, repr. p. 70 (detail)
  • Gustave Moreau (Tokyo, 2019), p. 84, repr.

Exhibition History

  • Exposition Universelle, 1878, [Unknown venue, Paris], 05/01/1878 - 10/31/1878
  • Moreau and Monticelli, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 05/13/1960 - 06/08/1960
  • Pre-Raphaelite and Early French Symbolist Art in the Fogg Collections, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/16/1973 - 02/25/1973
  • For Students of Art and Lovers of Beauty: Highlights from the Collection of Grenville L. Winthrop, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/16/2004
  • 32Q: 2130 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project
  • Collection Highlights

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at