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Western art

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Joshua passing the River Jordan with the ark of the covenant



Benjamin West

United States of America

10 Oct 1738 - 11 Mar 1820


Benjamin West was an American artist, self-taught but who went on to gain powerful patrons throughout the American Colonies and later in England for his history paintings. After touring Europe, West settled in London at the age of 25. Mixing with influential people, West was introduced to King George III, and was instrumental in gaining the king's support to found London's Royal Academy in 1771. After Sir Joshua Reynolds, West was the RA's second president. In 1772, West was appointed offical history painter to the court and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.

The Ark of the Covenant was a gold-covered wooden chest described in the Bible's Book of Exodus as containing the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. When, after 40 years of wandering the desert the Israelites arrived at the banks of the River Jordan, Joshua - Moses' successor - carried the Ark ahead to lead the Israelites' miraculous advance over the river towards the Promised Land.


Other Title

Joshua passing the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant



Media category


Materials used

oil on wood panel


53.2 x 75.5 x 1 cm panel; 67.7 x 89.5 x 5.6 cm frame

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.c., black paint "B West 1800".


Purchased 1970

Accession number


Artist information

Benjamin West

Works in the collection


Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history


West, 1800-1826, England, Study for a painting intended for King George III. Sold by West's sons to the United States in 1826 (113).

Robins, 1826-22 May 1829, United States of America, Purchased by Robins at the West sale, lot 113

Albert, post 22 May 1829, Purchased by Albert, lot 45 'Joshua crossing the Jordan with the Ark'

Sabin Galleries Ltd., London, pre 06 Nov 1970, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Sabin Galleries 1970

Referenced in 10 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 18 (colour illus.).

Dillenberger, West, 1977, 65, 70. pl. 47

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue of British paintings, Sydney, 1987, 211 (illus.).

Galt, Life of West, 1820, 211, 230.

Christopher Menz, Regency - British Art & Design 1800-1830, Adelaide, 1998, 29 (colour illus.), 74. 127

J. Meyer, Art Bulletin, 1975, 264.

Peter Tomory and Robert Gaston, European Paintings before 1800 in Australian and New Zealand public collections, Sydney, 1989, 50 (illus.). no. 133

Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, The Paintings of Benjamin West, 1986, 97, 104 (colour illus.), 581. cat. 270

West's Gallery, A catalogue of pictures painted by the late Benjamin West, Esq. president of the Royal Academy, 1822. 110

Author Unknown, Biblica: The Bible Atlas, 2007, (illus.).