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Work The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

Le Repos de la Sainte Famille pendant la fuite en Egypte

© 1996 RMN / René-Gabriel Ojéda

Paintings
Italian painting

Author(s):
Bastien Speranza, Stéphane Loire

Several signed versions of this subject exist. The work in the Louvre was probably painted in England in 1628 for King Charles I, though it might also be an original replica painted by the artist around 1637.

The story and the moment

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.

No landscape to distract the eye

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.

Mannerism

The three primary colors - red, yellow, and blue - appear as though under a layer of frost, seemingly bleached by the shock of illumination. The Virgin's dress appears purple in the shadows of the folds, and pale pink elsewhere. Gentileschi displays in this late work, painted in London around 1628, his attachment to Mannerism. Also present are elements of the naturalistic approach of Caravaggio (1570-1610) in the contrast between the almost trivial figure of Joseph and the Virgin's ideal monumentality. The artist painted numerous versions of the Holy Family at rest.

Technical description

  • Orazio GENTILESCHI (Pise, 1562 - Londres, 1639)

    Le Repos de la Sainte Famille pendant la fuite en Egypte

    1628 ?

  • H. : 1,57 m. ; L. : 2,25 m.

  • Collection de Louis XIV (acquis en 1671)

    INV. 340

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Grande Galerie
    Room 8

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