DAVID, Gerard
(b. ca. 1460, Oudewater, d. 1523, Bruges)

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Oil on wood, 51 x 43 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

This composition presents the Flight into Egypt as a continuous narrative. In a tiny background scene the Holy Family emerges from the forest, en route to the contemporary Netherlandish town at the left. In the foreground Mary nurses the Child in a moment of repose on their arduous journey, which the viewer is visually meant to follow. David achieved in this painting a remarkable balance of colour and a serene sense of light and atmosphere. His awareness of Italian Renaissance conventions is evident in the pyramidal motif of the Virgin and Child and his use of chiaroscuro to convey the volume of the figures.

This Rest of the Flight into Egypt survives in several copies and versions, testifying not only to the popularity of the theme at the time, but also to David's careful planning for an adaptable model for open market sales.