Overview

The short biblical account of the Flight into Egypt (Matt. 2:13–14) was elaborated upon by Early Christian and medieval theologians. In one of these apocryphal legends, the weary family paused during their journey after three days of travel. The Virgin longed for food, but the date–palm branches were too high for Joseph to pick any fruit. Thereupon Jesus commanded the tree to lower its branches. David deemphasized this miracle by giving Joseph a sturdy stick and by replacing the date palm with a Flemish chestnut tree, but a sixteenth–century audience would have remembered the apocryphal story. There are also indications of the special significance of the family: the Madonna wears robes in her symbolic colors of red and blue; fine rays of golden light emanate from the mother's head and that of the child; and the bunch of grapes held by the Madonna is a well–known symbol of the Eucharist.

David created a mood of calm equilibrium. The Madonna and Child are centrally placed, while receding diagonals and alternating bands of light and dark skillfully lead back into the landscape and harmoniously relate the figures to their surroundings. The predominance of the restful color blue throughout the composition unifies the work. All in all, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is one of Gerard David's loveliest and most peaceful creations.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

The Rev. Montague Taylor [d. 1896], London, acquired c. 1845; (sale Christie's, London, 19 May 1897, no. 152). (P. & D. Colnaghi and Co., London). Acquired March 1898 by Rodolphe Kann [d. 1905], Paris;[1] acquired from Kann estate in 1907 by (Duveen Brothers, New York). J. Pierpont Morgan, Sr. [1837-1913], New York, acquired c. 1908.[2] (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased December 1935 by The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1911
On loan to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1911-1916, no cat.
1920
Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
1937
Paintings and Sculpture Owned in Washington, Phillips Memorial Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1937, no. 7.
1998
From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1998-1999, fig. 99.

Bibliography

1900
Bode, Wilhelm von. Gemälde-sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900: xxx, pl. 83.
1900
Helbig, Jules. "Joachim Patenier." Reuve de l'art chrétien 11 (1900): pl. 8.
1901
Michel, Émile. "La Galerie de M. Rodolphe Kann." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 25 (1901): 498.
1903
Marguillier, Auguste. "La Collection de M. Rodolphe Kann." Les Arts (January, 1903): 4 repro.
1905
Bodenhausen, Eberhard Freiherr von. Gerard David und seine Schule. Munich, 1905: 186-188.
1907
Bode, Wilhelm von. Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection. Paris, 1907: 1, xxxi; 2, 7, repro. 6.
1908
Nicolle, Marcel. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'Art Ancien et Moderne 23 (1908): 193.
1911
Catalogue of the Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1911: 1905; Addenda: not paignated.
1914
Burroughs, Bryson. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Catalogue of Paintings. New York, 1914: 61 (also 1916 ed.: 66).
1916
Friedländer, Max J. Von Eyck bis Bruegel. Berlin, 1916: 181.
1920
Ivins, W.M. Jr. "Pictures Lent for the Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition." Bulletin of The Metropolitan Museum of Art 15 (August, 1920): 189.
1921
Conway, Martin. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921: 350-351.
1924
Friedländer, Max. Die altniederländische Malerei. 14 vols. Berlin and Leiden, 1924-1937. Berlin, 1934: 6:155, no. 214. (English transl. 14 vols. Leiden, 1967-1976. Leiden, 1971: 6, pt. 2:no. 214, pl. 217.)
1935
"Twenty Masterpieces at Messrs. Knoedler's." The Burlington Magazine 66 (1935): 299, frontispiece.
1937
Jewell, Edward Alden. "Mellon's Gift." Magazine of Art 30, no. 2 (February 1937): 73.
1941
De Tolnay, Charles. "Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art." Magazine of Art 34 (1941): 182-185, fig. 12.
1941
Held, Julius S. "Masters of Northern Europe, 1430-1660, in the National Gallery." Art News 40, no. 8 (June 1941): 12.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 53-54, no. 43.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 240, repro. 37.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 88, color repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 56, repro.
1949
L. J. Roggeveen. "De National Gallery of Art te Washington." Phoenix 4, no. 12 (December 1949): 340.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 25
1960
Broadley Hugh T. Flemish Painting in the National Gallery of Art (Booklet no. 5 in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). Washington, 1960: 42, color repro. on cover.
1960
The National Gallery of Art and Its Collections. Foreword by Perry B. Cott and notes by Otto Stelzer. National Gallery of Art, Washington (undated, 1960s): 10.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 104, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 38
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:88-89, color repro.
1968
Cuttler, Charles D. Northern Painting, from Pucelle to Bruegel: Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Centuries. New York, 1968: 195-196, fig. 245.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture: Illustrations (Companion to the Summary Catalogue, 1965). Washington, 1968: 31, no. 43, repro.
1970
Cooke, Hereward Lester. The National Gallery of Art in Washington. Munich and Ahrbeck/Hanover, 1970: 68-69, color fig. 31.
1975
Bermejo, Elisa. "Nuevas Pinturas de Adrian Isenbrant." Archivo Español de Arte y Arqueologia 48 (1975): 16.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 94, repro.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 132, repro. 133.
1979
Dufey-Haeck, Marie-Louise. "Le Thème du repos pendant la fuite en Egypte dans la peinture flamande de la seconde moitié du XVe au milieu du XVIe siècle." Revue Belge d'Archéologie et d'Histoire de l'Art 48 (1979): 54, 53, fig. 2.
1979
Watson, Ross. National Gallery of Art, Washington. London, 1979: 54, color pl. 36.
1981
Mundy, E. James. "Gerard David's Rest on the Flight into Egypt: further additions to grape symbolism." Simiolus 12 (1981-1982): 211-222, figs. 1-3.
1982
Abrams, Richard I. and Warner A. Hutchinson. An Illustrated Life of Jesus, From the National Gallery of Art Collection. Nashville, 1982: 56-57, color repro.
1983
Wilson, Jean. "Adriaen Isenbrant Reconsidered: The Making and Marketing of Art in Sixteenth-Century Bruges." Ph.D. diss., The Johns Hopkins University, 1983: 51-52, 60-64, 212-213, pl. 66.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 132, no. 124, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 116, repro.
1985
Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350-1575. New York, 1985: 192, fig. 189.
1986
Hand, John Oliver and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1986: 63-68, repro. 65.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 44, repro.
1996
Vos, Dirk de. "David, Gerhard." In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. 34 vols. London, 1996: 8:553.
1997
Nissen, Ricarda. Ich Komme zu dir, 1997, p. 42, repro.
1998
Gibson, Sarah S. and Alicia Craig Faxon. "Journey/Flight." In Encyclopedia of Comparative Iconography: Themes Depicted in Works of Art, edited by Helene E. Roberts. 2 vols. Chicago, 1998: 1:446.
1998
From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Edited by Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1998. New York, 1998: 308-311, fig. 99. (NGA painting was not in the exhibition.)
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: ii, 122-123, no. 92, color repros.
2005
Snyder, James. Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, the Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575. Revised by Larry Silver and Henry Luttikhuizen. Upper Saddle River, 2005: 213, col. fig. 10.27.

Technical Summary

The painting is in very good condition, with only small scattered areas of repaint. There are faint remains of gold halos behind the heads of the Christ Child and the Virgin. The Virgin's robe was originally larger at the lower left, as can be seen in infrared photographs and with the naked eye. Examination with infrared reflectography reveals underdrawing in what appears to be brush in the blue robe of the Madonna. Restored 1984/1985.

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