Where are they?

   In Flemish versions of the Flight into Egypt the Holy Family were often relegated to an almost incidental rôle in the picture, often tucked away in a corner with the landscape taking priority, as in this picture by Breughel.

Courtauld Institute Gallery, London


It is interesting to compare these two winter landscapes by Denis van Alsloot. One includes a Flight into Egypt, but the other doesn't. You will need to look carefully to work out which is which!

Private collection

Louvre, Paris

    Genre scenes were important in Flemish and Dutch painting - 'Merry-making peasants with cow eating a turnip', and so on. Religious content could be slipped in almost as an afterthought, perhaps because of religious sensitivities at the time: 'Merry-making peasants with John the Baptist preaching' or 'Kitchen full of cabbages in the house of Martha'.
   Some paintings became an early version of Where's Wally; can you find the Holy Family in this busy scene by Joachim Beuckelaer?

Rockox House, Antwerp

Perhaps the most extreme example is this one by Pieter Aertsen.


Museum Gustavianum, Uppsala

Give up? Look carefully past the sausages and you will see the Holy Family setting off on their journey, Mary giving alms to a child as she passes. 
    Some commentators have suggested that the meat is an image of the sacrifice to come. Maybe. 
A little later, in France, Claude Lorrain had picked up on this idea, with various biblical and classical stories tucked away in an odd corner. Here is one of his versions of the Flight into Egypt - where are they? Is it the group in front by the river? Or are they somewhere else?

Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

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