(b. 1571, Caravaggio, d. 1610, Porto Ercole)

Rest on Flight to Egypt

Oil on canvas, 133,5 x 166,5 cm
Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

The story of the Holy Family's flight was one of the most popular apocryphal legends which survived the prohibitive decrees of the Council of Trent and often appeared in painting from the end of the sixteenth century. Caravaggio's idyllic painting is an individualistic representation of this.

The artist ingeniously uses the figure of an angel playing the violin with his back to the viewer to divide the composition into two parts. On the right, before an autumnal river-front scene, we can see the sleeping Mary with a dozing infant in her left; on the left, a seated Joseph holding the musical score for the angel. The natural surroundings reminds the viewer of the Giorgionesque landscapes of the Cinquecento masters of Northern Italian painting, and it is fully imbued with a degree of nostalgia. Contrasting the unlikelihood of the event is the realistic effect of depiction, the accuracy of details, the trees, the leaves and stones, whereby the total impression becomes astonishingly authentic. The statue-like figure of the angel, with a white robe draped around him, is like a charmingly shaped musical motif, and it provides the basic tone for the composition. It is an interesting contradiction - and at the same time a good example for the adaptability of forms - that this figure of pure classical beauty is a direct descendant of Annibale Carracci's Luxuria from the painting "The Choice of Heracles".

The Angel is playing a motet in honour of the Madonna, Quam pulchra es..., composed by Noël Bauldeweyn to the words of the Song of Songs (7,7) with the dialogue between Groom and Bride.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 3 minutes):
Noël Bauldeweyn: Quam pulchra es, motetta