The Flight into Egypt, Duc de Berry paintings
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What is an 'Angel'?

Map of route taken by Joseph and Mary when they fled into Egypt

The flight into Egypt

Map of route taken by Joseph and Mary when they returned from Egypt to Galilee

Return to Galilee

Joseph with the child Jesus, painting

Joseph of Nazareth

Mary with the infant Jesus, George de la Tour

Mary of Nazareth 

Painting of an angel

Paintings of angels

King Herod the Great, as portrayed in the TV series 'Rome'

King Herod the Great





       Painting of the journey to Egypt

Jesus, Mary, Joseph and an angel on the road to Egypt

Warned by Joseph’s dream that King Herod was preparing to kill the Christ Child the Holy Family fled to Egypt.

The painter of the Duc de Berry's Book of Hours wanted to make this episode the basis for a new sort of depiction of the Holy Family. He seems to have admired the fresco of the Flight in the Arena Chapel, Flight into Egypt, Arena Chapelwhich he might recently have seen (click on image at right for an enlargement of this mural). He himself was seeking greater movement and luminosity, not to mention a more intimate view of the world.

Notice how he showed the prints of hoofs and feet in the dust of the road. This was an innovation, and typical of a Northern artist. Notice too the averted face of Mary in the Book of Hours painting, something else that was new. It allowed the artist to show mother and son close, but also to give special prominence to the child.

It suggested to him also the possibility of a corresponding rotation of Joseph. The two turning figures are so powerful in their interrelated movement that they bring to mind later contraposto in the work of Donatello or Quercia.

The donkey appears especially quiet and meek. His soft hair is lighted, it seems, chiefly by reflection from the road. The Virgin is a broad, heavy figure, and the artist, feeling she needed more support than the little grey ass could give her, extended her mantle below it to serve as a vertical buttress. Notice the shattered pagan idols behind Mary. The mere passing of the Holy Family has caused these figures to collapse and fall.

This painting of the Flight has a masterful simplicity and harmonious colors of tan, gold, pale green, violet, and blue.


Mary, Jesus and Joseph on the flight into Egypt, Book of Hours, Duc de Berry



Click on image at right to see the page as it appears in the Book of Hours of the Duke of Berry






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Bible Study Guide: Paintings of the flight into Egypt of Mary, Joseph and Jesus, Les Belles Heures, Duc du Barry

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