The subject is from the Old Testament (Genesis 21: 17-18). After Abraham had expelled his mistress Hagar and their son Ishmael, mother and child ran out of water in the wilderness. An angel of the Lord then called to Hagar to lift up her son, 'For I will make him a great nation'.
Assereto's known work is mainly of religious subjects. Another version of this painting is in the Palazzo Rosso, Genoa.