• The Holy Family in Egypt

    Artist:
    Poussin, Nicolas. 1594-1665
    Technique:
    oil
    Dimensions:
    106x146 сm

Poussin, Nicolas. 1594-1665

The Holy Family in Egypt

France, 1655-1657

In the 1640s and 1650s Poussin produced a number of paintings on historical and biblical subjects, which he treated in an entirely new vein, expressing in them his own reflections on the themes. The apocryphal Gospel of pseudo-Matthew describes the miraculous stilling of the thirst and satisfying of the hunger of the Holy Family on the way onto Egypt. Generally the Holy Family was depicted surrounded by angels bringing fruit and flowers. Poussin moved the setting to the square of an Egyptian town and instead of angels he depicted ordinary Egyptians - a young man and two girls. He particularly emphasized this, calling the painting "The Madonna in Egypt" or "The Egyptian Madonna". In his correspondence with Pierre de Chantelou, who commissioned the painting, the artist goes into detail describing his work on the canvas and explains a lot of things. He writes, for example, that the depiction of the procession of priests heading for the temple of Serapis and carrying an ark of relics, and also the dwelling of the sacred ibex and the tower with the concave roof for collecting dew were not his own invention, but rather taken from the famous mosaic at the shrine of Fortuna in Palestrina. "I placed all this in the painting so as to enjoy the novelty and variety and to show that the Madonna depicted is in Egypt." The sources for such a treatment of the subject should probably be sought in Poussin's biography. Although he spent much of his life in Italy, he nevertheless repeatedly mentioned in his letters that he felt himself to be a foreigner there. This feeling was also due to the hostile relationship between France and Italy, and therefore the idea of mutual understanding between people of different nationalities and religious beliefs, in the form of a joyful meeting between foreign refugees and hospitable locals, had a special relevance to the artist. The place of the miracle is taken by ordinary human kindness that draws no distinction between nations and beliefs.

Title:

The Holy Family in Egypt

Place:

Date:

Material:

Technique:

oil

Dimensions:

106x146 сm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1932; handed over by the Antikvariat All-Union Association; originally in the Stroganov Palace Museum collection

Inventory Number:

ГЭ-6741

Category:

Collection:

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