de jonckheere old masters

Maarten de Vos

Return from the Flight to Egypt

Copper: 12,5 x 10 cm


Rarer in religious iconography, the Return from the Flight to Egypt portrays the return journey of the Holy Family and Christ as an older child to Nazareth, which they had left to escape the fury of Herod. Created on the basis of several lines in the Gospel according to Matthew, the theme of the Flight to Egypt is of considerable importance in the production of painters in the 16th and 17th centuries. Maarten de Vos didn’t choose to portray either the Flight on the back of a donkey or the ensuing Rest. Instead, he chose to paint the Holy Family crossing a river, just as Moses had crossed the Red Sea on his way to the Promised Land.

Set in a panoramic landscape, the scene describes the crossing of a river. The Family is sitting in a boat steered by two boatmen, one perched on the bow and the other on the stern. The Virgin, Joseph, Christ and their donkey are all on board. A fifth person, dressed in a pretty sky-blue dress is also part of the group. Who is she? A villager taking advantage of the expedition to cross the river? Or is she, according to mediaeval tradition, one of Joseph’s children from a previous marriage?

The fact is that the painter shows particular inventiveness to illustrate the movement of the vessel on the water. In the foreground, the eddies indicate a supernatural force, while the two sailors bend back and forth to steer through the water with their oars. The great beauty of the landscape in the background bears witness to the influence of our artist’s trip to Italy. Of equal interest is the variety of expressions of the people in this group, which, like in each of his works, proves the talent of this master at depicting the passions of the soul. Composed of blues, reds and ochre, his palette turns this miniature on copper into a delightful little painting.

Provenance :
Private collection, Germany