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Pierre Patel, Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Key facts
Full title Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Artist Pierre Patel
Artist dates about 1605 - 1676
Date made 1652
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97.7 × 138 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1988
Inventory number NG6513
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Pierre Patel

In this fantastical landscape, the holy family – the Virgin Mary, Joseph and Christ – pause on their journey beside a derelict Roman temple. Among crumbling columns and fragmented archways, niches with antique statues and carved reliefs remain intact. The Virgin gives Christ some figs as a symbol of her virtue and fertility. Joseph rests against a stone altar.

The family have fled to Egypt to escape persecution by Herod, who had ordered the execution of all babies born in Bethlehem. The Flight into Egypt is mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew, although the ‘rest’ we see here relates to a later version of the story.

Patel ignored many of the details in the later legend. Here, Mary and Christ are shaded by an oak tree rather than the palm tree described in the story. An undamaged marble statue of a goddess stands in a niche to the right, but according to the legend when the family entered the temple at Sotina all the idols fell off the altar.

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