The return

Legend (and the Arabic gospel) suggests that the Holy Family spent three years in Egypt, before returning to Judea. There is a further legend that Jesus met up with his cousin, John the Baptist, on the return journey, and this idea has been put to very good use by many artists, though the Flight into Egypt is only occasionally referred to - such pictures are usually entitled 'Holy Family with John the Baptist'. 
    At this point in the story Jesus would be at least three years old, his cousin a few months older, though they are generally shown as being rather younger. 

Battista Dossi
Collezione Vittorio Cini, Venice

Fra Bartolomeo
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

    In some versions, John's mother Elizabeth is there too.  This beautiful Raphael drawing also includes his father, Zacharias. (According to the Protoevangelium of James he had been murdered by Herod some time before, but why let that get in the way of a great picture?)

Nicolas Poussin - Holy Family with John the Baptist and St Elizabeth
Hermitage, St Petersburg

Raphael: Holy Family with St John the Baptist, Zacharias, and Elizabeth in a Landscape
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille

  Flight into Egypt Index                                                Home page