The Rest on the Flight into Egypt is a subject in Christian art showing Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus resting during their flight into Egypt. The Holy Family is normally shown in a landscape. This version of the subject by Lucas Cranach has the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Child Christ as well as many angels supporting the Holy Family.

The subject did not develop until the second half of the fourteenth century, though it was an "obvious step" from depictions of the "legend of the palm tree" where they pause to eat dates and rest; palm trees are often included. It was a further elaboration of the long-standing traditions of incidents that embellished the story of the Flight into Egypt, which the New Testament merely says happened, without giving any details.

The earliest known Rest is a panel in the large compartmented Grabow Altarpiece by the north German painter Meister Bertram, from about 1379, and the subject was mainly found north of the Alps until 1500 or later. Most depictions are made for wealthy homes rather than churches, and the subject only rarely forms part of cycles of the Life of Christ in churches (though the Grabow Altarpiece is one exception). As landscape painting increased in popularity, it became an alternative to the original scene of the family on the road, and by the late sixteenth century perhaps overtook it in popularity.

The figures are often simply resting, but sometimes more definite camping or picnicking is shown, perhaps assisted by angels. In earlier pieces the Virgin is sometimes breastfeeding, connecting to the long-standing iconography of the Virgo Lactans. Joseph may be active, gathering firewood or fetching water, but in later pieces he is sometimes fast asleep, which the Virgin rarely is. In larger landscapes, other legendary incidents from the Flight may be seen in the distance.



Please Subscribe or Donate to Help Keep This Site Free!

Share this post