Antonio Mara Esquivel attended the Academia de Bellas Artes in Seville. His style was initially highly influenced by the Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618-1682).
The painter moved to Madrid in 1831 to attend the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando and there he founded, in 1837, the Liceo Artistico e letterario, where he started to teach Anatomy. He was appointed court painter in 1843 and, in 1848, he published the Tratado de Anatomia Pictrica.
The present composition presents the story of Hagar and Ishmael banished from the house of Abraham. Ishmael was Abraham's first son, by Hagar, the Egyptian handmaiden in Abraham's household. Shortly after the birth of Ishmael, Sarah, Abraham's wife who was thought unable to have children, gave birth to Isaac. Sarah then asked Abraham to banish both Hagar and Ishmael into the Desert of Beersheba (Genesis, 21:9-21).
In 1847 this painting was presented at the Annual Exhibition of the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando. It cemented his reputation as a leading historical and academic painter, and led to him being awarded the title of Academician of San Fernando.
Esquivel produced a series of canvases on this Old Testament subject, one of which, Hagar and Ishmael in the Desert (1856), is in the collection of the Museo Nacional del Romanticismo in Madrid.