The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Orazio Lomi

The Holy Family - the Virgin, Joseph, and the Christ Child - have just fled from Israel on the back of an ass, spurred by King Herod's decision to kill all the newborn male children in his realm. On their arrival in Egypt, they rest in hiding. It is this precise moment that Gentileschi chose to depict. As though to heighten the effect of the languishing bodies, the composition is built horizontally. The monumental figure of Mary in the foreground, with the brief vertical line of her bust and the horizontal of her left leg, is echoed in the construction of the walls behind her (short vertical, long horizontal). The groups are arranged on successive layers: the Virgin and Child precede Joseph, who lies on a large sack; a third plane composed of the wall with its growing vine opens onto a cloudscape in the background. The tight proximity of these different planes is such that this view of sky does little to alleviate it.
No landscape, as in the works of Domenichino, distracts the viewer's eye. From the right, a cold and level light - as though an intruder out of frame has just flung open a door - chisels these figures from the dark, creating a veritable group sculpture.


Works in Italy
Works around the world