National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt Maerten van Heemskerck (painter)
Netherlandish, 1498 - 1574
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1530
oil on panel
overall: 57.7 x 74.7 cm (22 11/16 x 29 7/16 in.) framed: 82.5 x 99.7 x 8.2 cm (32 1/2 x 39 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.36
On View
From the Tour: Antwerp in the Early 1500s
Object 7 of 7

Heemskerck spent several years in Italy, where he supported himself at times with the particularly northern specialty of landscape painting. But this picture was produced before his first trip there. It shows the influence of his teacher, Jan van Scorel, who had already brought back to the Netherlands an Italian feeling for large, sculptural figures and a landscape repertoire that included fanciful ruins and idyllic motifs copied from ancient art. This panel was long thought to be the work of Van Scorel; if Heemskerck painted it while in Van Scorel’s studio, it may have been sold as such.

The story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt to avoid Herod’s legions became a popular vehicle for landscape painting. Here, the exotic locale is reminiscent of sacred groves in ancient Italy.

Against this ambiguous panorama, the large image of the Virgin and Child takes on the quality of an icon. The crystal globe on which Jesus rests suggests his dominion over the world, the butterfly his resurrection. Because they are painted in rich colors and with distinct clarity, they seem quite near to us. Features in the distance, by contrast, are obscured by a progressive shift to blue that mimics the intervening haze of the atmosphere.

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