(b. 1397, Firenze, d. 1478, Pisa)

Flight into Egypt

Tempera and tooled gold on panel, 23 x 30 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia

This is one of the four panels in the Philadelphia museum which formed the predella to an altarpiece, of which the main panels are in the Staatliche Museen in Berlin. In the centre was the Annunciation; on the left, St Jerome; and on the right, St Lawrence.

Joseph leads the ass that the Virgin and Child ride as two handmaidens, one with a bundle on her head, follow. As in the Visitation panel of the predella, golden rays emanate from the maidens' heads. They are presumably the same attendants, but now they are barefoot and wear simple dress. As the group passes, a palm tree bows. This may refer to an incident recounted in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew concerning a palm tree that bowed down to give its fruit to the Holy Family during a rest on their fight to Egypt. The palm frames the grotto in the hill where Christ was born. It is early morning and the sun has just risen, chasing light and clouds over the hills and faraway city. The attention given to the depiction of the landscape and the atmospheric effects suggests a close familiarity with the predella panel of the same subject in Gentile da Fabriano's Adoration of the Magi, finished in May 1423.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.