(b. 1604, Chamagne, d. 1682, Roma)

Ideal Landscape with the Flight into Egypt

Oil on canvas, 193 x 147 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Most of Claude's paintings were conceived in complementary pairs. This was presumably also true of the landscape with accessory biblical scene illustrated here (one of the artist's rare vertical-format works). It was executed for one of his most important patrons, Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna, chief field marshal of the Kingdom of Naples and one of the most brilliant figures in Roman society of the day.

As in all of his views, Lorrain based this imagined rather than depicted landscape on an idealized distance. In the foreground and middle ground we see signs of cultural life - pastoral, mythological, occasionally biblical scenes, temples, architecture - which lead the eye to a far-off realm of yearning. At the same time, the artist stages the transcending power of light.

In this imaginary landscape the subject of the Flight into Egypt is barely noticeable, and simply serves as an excuse for a landscape bathed with the golden light of dusk, with orange-tinted skies - yielding to an intense blue at the top - and a light mist which envelops everything and softens all the outlines.