BENSON, Ambrosius
(b. ca. 1484, Lombardy, d. 1550, Bruges)

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Oil on oak panel, 103 x 65 cm
Groeninge Museum, Bruges

The early sixteenth century saw the establishment in Antwerp and Brussels of a new, modish style of Mannerism that broke radically from the serenity that had characterized the previous century. In Bruges, by contrast, a traditional undercurrent survived. The 'Bruges style' was greatly influenced by Gerard David and dominated by two of his pupils, Adriaan Isenbrant (c. 1490-1551) and Ambrosius Benson, both of whom remained active until about 1550. The sfumato technique employed by Isenbrant and the dramatic colour contrasts used by Benson owe much to Italian influence. What is typical about these two painters is the way they grafted their innovations onto old compositional and iconographical schemes, especially those of a religious nature. In the secular field, the Lombard immigrant Benson was already clearly a Renaissance painter.

The very traditional Rest on the Flight into Egypt was the central panel of a triptych. It is shown in the original frame.