Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Cornelis van Poelenburgh

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Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Cornelis van Poelenburgh

Painting NameRest on the Flight into Egypt
Painter NameCornelis van Poelenburgh
Completion Date1640
Current LocationFogg Art Museum Harvard University (Cambridge Massachussetts United States)

Cornelius Van Poelenburg, the Dutch artist of Dutch Golden Age, was a landscape painter with subjects of mythology or religious subjects.

Rest on the flight into Egypt is an important event during the time, when Jesus was an infant and was dependent on mother Mary and father Joseph. When the king Herod decreed to kill all the infants in the kingdom, an angel came in the dream of Joseph and told him to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus. Joseph did the same.

Like artists from Caravaggio to the late middle ages artist Giotto di Bondone and many others have done before, Cornelius has depicted the same journey through his imagination. In the painting, Mother Mary is sitting on a stone with infant Jesus and Joseph is looking over them standing with a support of a stick. Cornelius has given the same weightage to the landscape (as he was adept in landscapes). There are remains of old buildings, cows and people in the background which shows there might be a village nearby. We see the horizons of the Egyptian deserts, reflecting there is a still long way to go.

The statues laying in the foreground may hint the demise of the pagan world and the start of the new era. Cornelius may have tried to hint us the beginning of the new era which would start when Jesus would return with his mystical powers to heal the world. From that time, the world starts to hail Jesus and Paganism was forgotten in the history.

His intentional choice of religious subject and blending it with his mastery, landscapes. The best of both subjects stands out in the presented oil-on-canvas painting as we get the religious attachment and the enjoyment of the beautiful landscape.


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