The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, ca. 1640
Attributed to Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called II Guercino
Italian
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Edward Hines, 45-01

According to the Bible (Matthew 2:13-15), Joseph had a dream in which angels appeared and warned him that King Herod was planning to kill the infant Jesus. In order to protect his son and family, Joseph took flight into Egypt. This painting depicts the Holy Family resting during their arduous journey. The mood of the painting is calm and reflective; however, Joseph appears concerned for his family's safety. Mary comforts her son, who is nestled in His Mother's lap, oblivious to any impending danger. On the right, musical angels lull Jesus to sleep. In the background, another angel tends to the donkey on which Mary and Jesus traveled.

Primarily self-taught, Guercino was a principal artist of the Bolognese school of Baroque painting. He worked in Rome, Cento, and Bologna. A talented painter, Guercino was also an accomplished draughtsman, admired for his deft drawings infused with unparalleled immediacy and depth. Guercino even established an academy of drawing in Bologna, but it closed after only two years.

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt in the D'Arcy Collection represents one of two known versions painted either by Guercino or a follower. His patrons rate among the most prestigious figures of the day: Cosimo II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Cardinal Alessandro Ludovisi, Archbishop of Bologna (later elected Pope Gregory XV). The French court also sought after Guercino; Marie de' Medici attempted to secure a position for him in Paris before political troubles forced her into exile. Guercino received important ecclesiastical and secular commissions, including the famous Aurora (1621) ceiling fresco in Rome's Casino Ludovisi. Although Guercino spent only a brief time in Rome, his art exerted significant influence on the development of Roman Baroque painting.

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