DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin: The Flight into Egypt

c. 1496
Oil on pine panel, 63 x 45,5 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

The Flight into Egypt is one of seven scenes from the Life of Christ which originally surrounded the large central panel of the Mother of Sorrows. In the Gospel of St Matthew (Matt. 2, 13-14), the event is mentioned briefly, though narrated in more detail in the Apocrypha. King Herod ordered that all newborn sons should be killed once he had found out that a future king would be born in Judea. An angel conveys to Joseph God's message to leave the town. Thus the Holy Family fled to Egypt.

The group of figures, with Mary riding and holding the Christ Child and Joseph leading the ass, is arranged parallel to the picture in the foreground, an arrangement which is repeated in the later woodcut in the Life of the Virgin. In the foreground the path is stony, and in the background a rocky landscape is visible. The rock is a sign of a safe place of refuge, but can also be interpreted as a mariological and christological symbol: "The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner" (Matt. 21, 42). Both the composition and method of painting still owe much to the Late Medieval workshop tradition.