The Journey

The theme in art dates back to at least the eighth century; there is a mosaic version in Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome, and older icons, particularly Coptic ones, show the journey. Images of the flight either depict the journey  itself, as shown on this page,  or later, the Rest on the Flight (considered here).  
    Early versions, such as these by Fra Angelico (left) and Carpaccio, kept it simple. 

Museo di San Marco Florence

National Gallery of Art, Washington

   This version by Duccio includes some extra features; Joseph's dream is shown, which is why he appears twice, and another character is leading the donkey - find out about him here

Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena

     Of course, just as with the writers of the apocryphal stories, artists couldn't resist embroidering the story - Mary and Joseph seem to be making slow progress in this version by Jacopo Bassano. (Left)  In other versions, such as this one by Sebastiano Ricci, the family are seen boarding a boat, presumably to cross the Red Sea. 

Norton Simon Museum California

Chatsworth House

In the great majority of versions the Holy Family are travelling from left to right. Why?
    In western culture, the eye naturally travels from left to right - this is the direction of print on a page. Thus in the Fight into Egypt  the viewers eye moves in the same direction as the travellers, giving a sense of animation to the scene. 
 (The directional aspect of painting has been discussed at some length in the study of the Annunciation)

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