Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Flight Into Egypt -- The Variations (Part 2 of a Series)

Melchior Broederlam, Flight inro Egypt
Detail from the Dijon Altarpiece
Flemish, 1393-1399
Dijon, Musee des Beaux-Arts
The third Sunday of January is set aside as a World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.1  In this context I am looking at the iconography surrounding the small family that is the most famous and familiar family of refugees in history -- the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus.

Warned by an angel about Herod's intended Massacre of the Innocents, the baby boys of Bethlehem, under the age of two, " Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt." (Matthew 2:14)

In my first article, The Holy Refugees, I looked at the "simple" iconography of the story.  These "simple" images show Mary, usually seated on a donkey, holding the Child while Joseph walks ahead of her, leading the donkey, or follows.  Sometimes they are joined by an angel who shows them to way or simply adores the Child.  Other persons, passersby, other travelers, or simple observers may also appear.

But there are other ways of portraying the story.  These form the variations.  Among the various variations of the story are images that focus on some of the apocryphal stories that had grown up around the infancy of Jesus to fill in the "gaps" in the Biblical accounts, scenes from those Biblical accounts of incidents from the Infancy Narratives and other pious ways of reflecting on the life of Jesus and his Mother.

The Miracle Stories
The miracle stories were introduced as the result of pious legends that sprang up around the story as related in the Gospels.  Among these is the story of the miraculous field of wheat, which sprang up to instantly to a height sufficient to hide the Holy Family from Herod’s pursuing troops.

Jean Bandol, The Miracle of the Wheat Field
from Grande Bible Historial Completee
French (Paris), 1371-1372
The Hague, Moormeno-Westreenianum Museum
MS MMW 10 B 23, fol. 467r

Miracle of the Wheat Field
from Hours of Louis of Savoy
French (Savoy), c.1445-1450
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9473, fol. 58v



























Jean Colombe, Miracle of the Wheat Field
from Vita Jesu Christi by Ludolph of Saxony
French (Bourges), 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 177, fol. 45
Another story held that a palm tree bent down its crown of leaves so that Joseph would have an easier time collecting its dates as food.
Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Miracle of the Palm Tree
from Speculum historiale of Vincentius Bellovacensis
French (Paris), 1333-1334
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 316, fol. 307

Miracle of the Palm Tree
Spanish, c.1490-1510
New  York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Ludwig Juppe, Miracle of the Palm Tree
German, 1510-1520
Uerzell, Schloss Uerzeller, Chapel


























A third miracle concerns the statues of the Egyptian gods, the idols, which were said to have toppled from their pedestals as soon as the Child Jesus had crossed the Egyptian frontier.  Since the artists of the Middle Ages (and well into the eighteenth century) had never seen a statue of any of the Egyptian gods, their images of this event are true works of the imagination.

Fall of the Egyptian Idols
from De Lisle Psalter
English (London), c.1310
London, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arundel 83, fol. 124
Jacquemart de Hesdin, Fall of the Egyptian Idols
from Petites heures de Jean de Berry
French (Bourges), 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 18014, fol. 45v


Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Fall of the Egyptian Idols
from Speculum historiale of Vincentius Bellovacensis
French (Paris), 1333-1334
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 316, fol. 307v

The Image of the Flight with Other Infancy Scenes
Images of the Flight into Egypt are often part of a larger image which may contain one or more other scenes from the infancy narratives of the Gospels.  Therefore, it may be combined with images of the Adoration of the Magi, the Presentation in the Temple or the Massacre of the Innocents.  At the beginning of the Middle Ages the scene of the Flight and the combined scene chosen by the artist had equal weight in the composition.  But, towards the end of the period, the portion of the composition devoted to the Flight was reduced in size as the associated scene became larger.  Eventually, the image of the Flight became a tiny scene relegated to the background of the associated scene, receding farther and farther into the distance.

Ingelard, Fight into Egypt and Adoration of the Magi
from Generationum regnorumque laterculus bedanus
French (Paris, Abby of St. Germain), c.1050
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 12117, fol. 108
Flight into Egypt and Massacre of the Innocents
from the Winchester Psalter
Anglo-Norman, mid-12th-2nd half of 13th Centuries
London, British Library
MS Cotton Nero C IV, fol. 14r

Flight into Egypt and Presentation in the Temple
French, 1063
Moissac, Abbey of St. Pierre
Flight into Egypt and Massacre of the Innocents
from Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche of Castille
French (Paris), ca. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186. fol. 19v
Flight into Egypt and Massacre of the Innocents
from a Psalter
French (Paris), 1228-1234
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M153, fol. 17r
Massacre of the Innocents and Flight into Egypt
English, c.1310
Croughton (Northamptonshire), Parish Church
Massacre of the Innocents and Flight into Egypt
German, 1370
Haufeld (Thuringia), Church of Saint Christopher (now Protestant)
Melchior Broederlam, the Dijon Altarpiece
Depicting the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Presentation in the Temple and the Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1393-1399
Dijon, Musee des Beaux-Arts
Master of Marguerite of Orleans, Flight into Egypt
and Massacre of the Innocents
from Hours of Marguerite d'Orleans
French (Rennes), c.1430
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1156 B, fol. 102
Flight into Egypt with Fall of the Egyptian Idols
and Massacre of the Innocents
from a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c.1460-1470
London, British Library
MS Egerton 2045, fol. 106
Robinet Testard, Flight into Egypt with Fall of the
Egyptian Idols and Massacre of the Innocents
from a Book of Hours
French (Poitiers), 1470-1480
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M1001, fol. 57r
Massacre of the Innocents and Flight into Egypt
from Speculum animae
Spanish (Valencia), late 15th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Espagnol 544, fol. 8























































Jean Poyer, Massacre of the Innocents and
Flight into Egypt
from Hours of Henry VIII
French (Tours), 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H8, fol.69v

Jacques de Besancon, Massacre of the Innocents
and Flight into Egypt
from Legenda Aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), 1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 244, fol. 27bisv


























The Massacre of the Innocents and
 the Miracle of the Wheat Field
from a Book of Hours
French (Paris), 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H5, fol. 69r
Master of James IV of Scotland
Massacre of the Innocents, Flight into Egypt
and Rest on the Flight into Egypt
from the Spinola Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c.1510-1520_
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 140v





























Ludovico Mazzolino, Massacre of the Innocents and Flight into Egypt
Italian, 1510-1530
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

Giovanni Angelo del Maino, Massacre of the Innocents and Flight into Egypt
Italian, c.1520
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts


Landscapes with the Flight into Egypt
One important element entered the iconography in the sixteenth century, beginning in both Italy and northern Europe at about the same time.  This is the addition of landscape.  Images made during the Middle Ages may have included references to landscape:  a tree here, a field, a rock or a building there, but these remained highly subordinated to the central figures of Mary, Joseph and the Child Jesus.  In the earliest of these images the landscape, while more extensive than in most “simple” versions, is entirely subordinate to the figures, which are generally placed in the front plane of the picture and appear larger, as if closer to our eyes.

Boucicaut Master, Flight into Egypt
from Hours of Marechal de Boucicaut
French (Paris), 1405-1408
Paris, Musee Jacquemart-Andre
MS 2, fol. 90v







An outstanding early example is the beautiful painting of the Flight into Egypt by the as yet anonymous Boucicaut Master in the Book of Hours of Marechal de Boucicaut from which his name is derived.  In it we see the Holy Family, accompanied by angels, traversing a fairytale landscape of woods, lakes and hills, crowned by a rising sun.








It took several decades before other artists were able to match this beautiful work of art.




Jean Colombe, Flight into Egypt
from a Book of Hours
French (Bourges), c.1480-1490
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum
Inventory # 1984-3
Jean Bourdichon, Flight into Egypt
from Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne
French (Tours), 1503-1508
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9474, fol. 76v



























Titian, Flight into Egypt
Italian, 1508
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Vittore Carpaccio, Flight into Egypt
Italian, c.1515
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Simon Bening, Flight into Egypt
from Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg
Flemish (Bruges), c.1525-1530
Cologne, Schnuetgen-Museum
MS Ludwig 2 vol. 2, fol. 47v

Herri Met de Bles, Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c.1530
La Fere, Musee Jeanne d'Aboville
























As the painting of landscape developed, however, the proportion of landscape to figure changed, until the landscape became the dominant element and the figures became small and frequently so small as to be swallowed up by the landscape.  In some paintings they become very small indeed and actually need to be hunted down to locate.   This movement was begun by the early Flemish landscape painters and then picked up by the Italian Late Renaissance and Baroque painters.

Joachim Patinir, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1516-1517
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Herri Met de Bles, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c.1540
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Joachim Beuckleaer, Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1560s
Antwerp, Rockox House
Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
Dutch, 1563
London, Courtauld Gallery

Marten van Valckenborch, Flight into Egypt (February)
Flemish, c.1580-1590
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Tintoretto, Flight into Egypt
Italian, 1582-1587
Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco

Paul Brill, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c.1600
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Annibale Carracci, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Italian, 1603
Rome, Galleria Doria Pamphili

Jan Brueghel I, Edge of the Forest - Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1610
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

Domenichino, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Italian, c.1620-1623
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Joos de Momper, Winter Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
Flemish, c.1620-1630
Private Collection
Roelandt Savery, Landscape with Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1624
Washington, National Gallery of Art

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with the Flight into Egypt
French, c.1635
Indianapolis, Indianapolis Museum of Art

The tradition of putting the Flight into a realistic landscape continued throughout the seventeenth century.  It seems to have faded out during the eighteenth century but was revived in the nineteenth and continued right into the twentieth century.  However, with the nineteenth-century revival the relative proportions of landscape to figure became more balanced.  That is, the figures again began to dominate, since, after all, a story is being told.


Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Flight into Egypt
French, 1840
Rosny-sur-Seine, Parish Church
james Tissot, Flight into Egypt
French, 1886-1894
New  York, Brooklyn Museum


Jean Leon Gerome, Flight into Egypt
French, 1897
Vesoul, Musee Georges-Garret


Georges Rouault, Flight into Egypt
French, 1946
Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges-Pompidou

















The Night Scene

As artists became interested in showing the effects of light on vision, especially showing these effects in darkness, they seized on the description of the Flight in St. Matthew's Gospel, which says that " Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt." (Matthew 2:14).  So, beginning in the early seventeenth century they began to attempt to portray the night time scene of the Holy Family fleeing in the dark, or resting somewhere during the night.  

Guise Master, Flight into Egypt
from Hours of Charlotte of Savoy
French (Paris), 1415-1430
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M1004, fol. 54r
Not entirely a night effect painting, this early work
attempts to capture the colors of the sky at dawn or dusk.

























Adam Elsheimer, Flight into Egypt
German, 1609
Munich. Alte Pinakothek
Elsheimer was one of the pioneers of painting night effects.  In this picture he presents a nighttime scene with several sources of illumination:  a campfire, a lantern, the moon shining on water and the Milky Way.
Peter Paul Rubens, Flight into Egypt
Flemish, 1614
Kassel, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Schloss Wilhelshoehe Gemaeldegalerie
Rubens painting presents both natural and supernatural light sources.  Light shines from the Holy Child as well as from the moon.

Johann Wilhelm Baur, Flight into Egypt
German, c.1620-1640
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Like Elsheimer, Baur has three light sources:  the campfire, a torch held by Joseph and the moon reflecting on water.

Rembrandt, Landscape with Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Dutch, 1647
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland
In this scene Rembrandt imagines the effects of the campfire reflected in water and the moon emerging from clouds.

Bernard Fuckerad, Flight into Egypt
German, Before 1662
Cologne, Church of the Assumption
In Fuckerad's composition the light emanates from a torch held by an angel.  The crescent moon seen through a gap in the trees contributes little illuminaton.

Jose Moreno, Flight into Egypt
Spanish, 1670
Madrid, Museo del Prado
In this picture the light source comes from outside the picture space.
Henri Joseph Harpignies, Flight into Egypt
French, 1840-1860
Beauvais, MUDO, Musee de l'Oise
In Harpignies painting the Holy Family travels through a landscape brightly lit by the unseen moon.
Odilon Redon, Flight into Egypt
French, c.1890-1910
Paris, Musee d'Orsay
Redon shows us a scene in which the illumination
is mainly supernatural, emanating from the Holy
Family.
Henry Ossawa Tanner, Flight into Egypt
American, 1923
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
In Tanner's image the light source is the lantern held
by St. Joseph.

The Prequel to the Flight – The Dreams of the Magi and of Saint Joseph
The account of the birth of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew includes several messages that are delivered by angels through the dreams of individuals.  Among these messages are the warnings received by the Magi and by Saint Joseph about Herod's plans for a massacre of baby boys.  The Magi were told to return to their own country by a route that bypassed Jerusalem.

Gislebertus, The Dream of the Magi
French, 1120s
Autun. Cathedral of St. Lazare




















Dream of the Magi
from a Psalter
English (Oxford), 1st quarter of 13th Century
London, British Library
MS Royal 1 D X, fol. 2v

























Simultaneously Saint Joseph was given the urgent message to “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.”  (Matthew 2:13)
Mosaic, St. Joseph's Dream and the Flight into Egypt
 Italian, 1140-1170
Palermo, Cappella Palatina





















St. Joseph's Dream and the Flight into Egypt
Italian, 1266
Florence, Baptistery


















Georges de La Tour, Dream of St. Joseph
French, c.1630
Nantes_Musee des Beaux-Arts
Anonymous Emilian Painter, Dream of St. Joseph
Italian, 1645-1655
Florence, Galleria Palatina e Appartamenti Reali, Palazzo Pitti




























Rembrandt, Joseph's Dream
Dutch, 1645
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
Gerard Seghers, Dream of St.Joseph
Flemish, c.1650
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Pier Francesco Mola, St. Joseph's Dream
Italian, c.1650
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland






Rembrandt, Dream of St. Joseph
Dutch, 1650-1655
Budapest, National Museum

Francesco Solimena, Dream of St. Joseph
Italian, c.1696-1697
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Pierre Hubert Subleyras, Dream of St. Joseph
French, 1722-1726
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins


















Anton Raphael Mengs, Dream of St. Joseph
German, c.1773-1774
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum


















Gaetano Gandolfi, St. Joseph's Dream
Italian, c.1790
Private Collection









James Tissot, Vision of St. Joseph
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum






















 In a subsequent essay I will present the related subject of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, which has an iconography of its own. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017 will be the World Day of Prayer for Migrants and Refugees.2

© M. Duffy, 2017

  1. Massacre of the Innocents at http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-holy-innocents-nearly-forgotten.html
  2. Pope Francis’ message regarding the Day of Prayer on January 15, 2017 at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/papa-francesco_20160908_world-migrants-day-2017.html


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