The Virgin, seated in a large landscape, is feeding the Christ Child; luggage is scattered around her. To the right, we see a grazing donkey and Saint Joseph with a pack and walking stick. The holy family here rest as they flee to Egypt, driven away by King Herod’s order to execute infants under the age of two. The massacre is taking place in the distant village. In the background on the left, soldiers ride through a cornfield and another three question a reaper and a child. Further to the right a man guides a horse pulling a chain harrow.
This picture is basically a pastiche with elements taken from various paintings by Joachim Patinir. Its painter had so wide a knowledge of Patinir’s repertoire that he was perhaps working during his lifetime, possibly in around 1518 to 1520. His styles of underdrawing and painting are very distinctive and it should be possible to identify other paintings by him.
The Virgin Mary, seated in a large landscape, feeds the Christ Child; luggage is scattered around her. On the right, we see a grazing donkey and Saint Joseph with pack and walking stick. The holy family here rest as they flee to Egypt, driven away by King Herod’s order to execute infants under the age of two.
In the background on the left soldiers ride through a cornfield, and another three question a reaper and a child. This is the miracle of the corn: while pursuing the holy family, Herod’s soldiers met a peasant who told them, truthfully, that a mother and child passed that way when he was sowing his wheat; it had grown and ripened miraculously overnight. Further to the right, a man guides a horse pulling a chain harrow while the massacre is taking place in the village behind.
The huge building in the centre is a pagan temple, and worshippers are performing a fire ritual on top of the tower. It is repeated from The Rest on the Flight by Joachim Patinir (Museo del Prado, Madrid), where it is probably the temple of Hermopolis. According to the apocryphal gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, there were 365 gods in the temple; when Mary and Christ entered, all the idols fell.
This picture is basically a pastiche of elements found in Patinir’s paintings. The group of the Virgin and Christ Child seems to have come from a lost composition by the Master of Flémalle or Rogier van der Weyden; it was normally used in reverse by Patinir and his followers. Other elements – the central building, the miracle of the corn, the horse and harrow and the Virgin’s luggage – come from Patinir’s Rest on the Flight in Madrid; the central rock is similar to that in his Rest on the Flight in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin; the donkey recurs in another version in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Patinir seems to have specialised in paintings showing small figures in large landscapes. Of the seven paintings with inscriptions giving his name, all have landscapes in much the same style, although the figures are different. Little is known about his workshop, but it appears that Patinir and his associates concentrated on a relatively narrow range of subjects, notably the Rest on the Flight and Saint Jerome, which they reused constantly and varied in different arrangements, according to the requirements of the client.
The painter of this picture had so wide a knowledge of Patinir’s repertoire that he was perhaps working during the artist’s lifetime, possibly in around 1518 to 1520. His styles of underdrawing and painting are very distinctive. He liked to clearly outline shapes and tended to emphasise verticals and horizontals: the figure of Joseph is particularly characteristic of the artist’s style. It should be possible to identify other paintings by him.
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