The Flight into Egypt:

The tradition in images.

introductory page or site map or back to first century

In both east and west, the oldest and most enduring type of image shows a quiet, blessed journey.

detail of Giotto's fresco on previous page

An image of the journey
by land and river
heads the Home Page for www.coptic.net

Manuscript illustration, eleventh century, Library of Dionysiou monastery, Mt. Athos, from

poseidon.csd.auth.gr/athos.icon8.jpeg

Joseph's son, James, carries provisions and leads the way.

Modern Coptic icon: Joseph walks ahead, carrying the Child, and James walks behind.
see www.struggler.org/birth3.htm(scroll for image) and www.fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/duties.htm-

Copts often show the family accompanied by a maid, Salome in accord with the Vision of Theophilus: an example can be found by opening the Ethipian link at the botom of this page.

William Blake, Tate Gallery.

Haloed and winged figures accompany
Mary holding the Child.

Millet, nineteenth century.

Rare image showing walking figures. Joseph carries the Child.

Rarely does the artist suggest urgency.


Poussin, Seventeenth Century, interprets the story to show refugees fleeing a massacre (the Slaughter of the Innocents). Such drama is unusual.

In the West, the most important subject becomes the "Rest on the Flight." There may be references to epsodes from the apocryphal "Infancy Narratives:" e.g., the grain harvest. the Holy family passed a sower sowing grain, and the child caused the grain to become fully grown. The peasants told Herod's men that a man and women with a baby boy had passed by when the grain was being sown, so the persuers thought that could not be the baby they wished to kill.

Joachim Patenir, Rest on the Flight, c. 1500.Prado (Madrid), from the museum's web pages.

enlarged detail, picture upper right, soldiers adavance through the grain: far away, in front of the houses, soldiers slaughter the innocents

another episode from the "Infancy narratives" is the fall of pagan idols in Egypt when the Holy Family approach: here sculpture from the Romanesque church of Moissac in France ahows toppled figures upper right and bottom left

The themes of journeying, fleeing, and finding have made this a popular contemporary subject.
Contemporary images take many forms. These links suggest some of the variety. LINKS NOW NEED WORK

Russian: Rabin
a flying machine
peyote way
Ethiopian: Yemaini (note the presence of Salome, Mary's maidservant, in this picture. This detail accords with the medieval Coptic text, the Vision of Theophilus. The Coptic and Ethiopian churches developed together, only separated adminstratively in 1977.)
Russian: Goncharova
Chinese: anonymous

 

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