This composition presents the Flight into Egypt as a continuous narrative. In a tiny background scene the Holy Family emerges from the forest, en route to the contemporary Netherlandish town at the left. In the foreground Mary nurses the Child in a moment of repose on their arduous journey, which the viewer is visually meant to follow.
David achieved in this painting a remarkable balance of color and a serene sense of light and atmosphere. His awareness of Italian Renaissance conventions is evident in the pyramidal motif of the Virgin and Child and his use of chiaroscuro to convey the volume of the figures.
W. Mansell MacCulloch, Touillets, Guernsey (until 1902; sale, Christie's, London, May 31, 1902, no. 70, as Early Flemish School, for £892.10.0, to Dowdeswell); [Dowdeswell & Dowdeswell, London, from 1902]; Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stoop, London (by 1906–28); [Duveen, London and New York, 1928; sold for $300,000 to Bache]; Jules S. Bache, New York (1928–d. 1944; his estate, 1944–49; cats., 1929, unnumbered; 1937, no. 22; 1943, no. 21)
Art Gallery of the Corporation of London. "Early Flemish Painters," 1906, no. 52 (as by Isenbrant, lent by Mrs. Frank Stoop).
London. Burlington House. "Flemish & Belgian Art: 1300–1900," 1927, no. 104 (as by Gerard David, lent by Frank Stoop).
New York. F. Kleinberger Galleries. "Flemish Primitives," 1929, no. 29 (lent by Jules S. Bache).
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300–1800," May–October 1939, no. 77 (lent by Jules S. Bache, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gerard David: Flanders's Last Medieval Master," April 1–May 9, 1972, no catalogue?
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 22, 1998–February 21, 1999, no. 82.
W. H. J. Weale. "Miscellaneous Notes and Letters: Painting by Gerard David in the Collection of Don Pablo Bosch at Madrid." Burlington Magazine 7 (April–September 1905), p. 470, publishes this painting as an almost exact replica of the example in the Bosch collection (see Notes), attributing it, however, to Isenbrant.
Émile Durand-Gréville. "Les primitifs flamands a l'exposition de Guildhall." Les arts anciens de flandre 2 (1906–7), p. 183, ascribes it to Gerard David, possibly with the help of Isenbrant.
Salomon Reinach. Répertoire de peintures du moyen age et de la renaissance (1280–1580). Vol. 3, Paris, 1910, p. 286, as by Gerard David, a good replica of a lost original.
Max J. Friedländer. Von Eyck bis Bruegel: Studien zur Geschichte der Niederländischen Malerei. Berlin, 1916, p. 180, lists it with works by Gerard David.
Martin Conway. The Van Eycks and Their Followers. London, 1921, pp. 285–86, cites our picture and a painting of this subject in the Nemes collection (now Boymans-van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam) as popular works by David that were frequently imitated or repeated in the master's studio; mentions the Madrid and Antwerp examples as repetitions of the whole with slight changes
Ludwig Baldass. "Die Niederländer des 15. und 16. Jahrhunderts auf der Ausstellung flämischer Kunst in London." Belvedere 11 (September 1927), p. 111, notes that our panel is without doubt the best of the known examples, and surely the wrok of David; comments that Joos van Cleve later varied this composition.
Tancred Borenius inCatalogue of the Loan Exhibition of Flemish & Belgian Art: A Memorial Volume. Ed. Martin Conway. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1927, pp. xviii, 47, no. 104, ascribes it to Gerard David, calling it almost identical with the Madrid picture.
Apollo 6 (July–December 1927), ill. opp. p. 235 (color).
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 6, Memling und Gerard David. Berlin, 1928, p. 154, no. 212a, pl. 95, catalogues it as a replica of the Madrid example and of equal quality.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Collection of Jules S. Bache. New York, 1929, unpaginated, ill.
August L. Mayer. "Die Sammlung Jules Bache in New-York." Pantheon 6 (December 1930), p. 542, ill. opp. p. 537.
Sidney P. Noe. "Flemish Primitives in New York." American Magazine of Art 21 (January 1930), p. 37.
Royal Cortissoz. "The Jules S. Bache Collection." American Magazine of Art 21 (May 1930), p. 258, ill. p. 248.
Ludwig Baldass. "Gerard David als Landschaftsmaler." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, n.s., 10 (1936), pp. 93–94, calls a painting in Lisbon (Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga) David's earliest example of this subject and places ours later, after 1498; describes the landscape in this picture as one of the earliest representations of a forest.
Max J. Friedländer. Die altniederländische Malerei. Vol. 14, Pieter Bruegel und Nachträge zu den früheren Bänden. Leiden, 1937, p. 106.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. under revision. New York, 1937, unpaginated, no. 22, ill.
Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941, unpaginated, no. 180, give it to David and date it about 1497.
Harry B. Wehle. "The Bache Collection on Loan." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943), p. 288.
A Catalogue of Paintings in the Bache Collection. rev. ed. New York, 1943, unpaginated, no. 21, ill.
K. G. Boon. Gerard David. Amsterdam, , p. 39, ill. p. 34, ascribes it to David.
Harry B. Wehle and Margaretta Salinger. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Early Flemish, Dutch and German Paintings. New York, 1947, pp. 93–94, ill., as by Gerard David.
Leo van Puyvelde. The Flemish Primitives. Brussels, 1948, p. 31.
M. L. D'Otrange. "Gerard David at the Metropolitan, New York." Connoisseur 128 (January 1952), p. 211, ill. p. 210, as "assigned by many authorities to the studio of David, as a replica by some pupil, perhaps with David's assistance".
Georges Marlier. Ambrosius Benson et la peinture à Bruges au temps de Charles-Quint. Damme, Belgium, 1957, pp. 103–4, 109, 122–23, 127, cites instances of Benson's borrowing from this composition.
Erik Larsen. Les primitifs flamands au Musée Metropolitain de New York. Utrecht, 1960, pp. 80, 124, fig. 24, ascribes it to David himself.
R. H. Wilenski. Flemish Painters, 1430–1830. New York, 1960, vol. 1, pp. 104, 108, 112–13; vol. 2, pl. 201A, comments that a "landscape specialist" probably provided the setting for this picture, which he ascribes to the "New York Rest on the Flight Painter".
Charles D. Cuttler. Northern Painting from Pucelle to Bruegel. New York, 1968, pp. 195–96, observes that "David's work on this theme if not contemporaneous with the Jan de Trompes altarpiece [with the Baptism of Christ, Groeninge Museum, Bruges], may have received its initial presentation shortly before.
Margaret Whinney. Early Flemish Painting. New York, 1968, p. 114, colorpl. C, ascribes it to Gerard David.
Max J. Friedländer et al. Early Netherlandish Painting. Vol. 6, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David. New York, 1971, part 2, p. 107, no. 212a, pl. 215, calls it a close replica, of equal merit, of an original in the Prado.
M. L. Dufey-Haeck. "Le thème du repos pendant la fuite en Egypte dans le peinture flamand de la second moitié du XVe au milieu du XVIe siècle." Revue belge d'archéologie et d'histoire d'art 48 (1979), pp. 54–55.
Edwin James Mundy III. "Gerard David Studies." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1980, pp. 141–42, 157 n. 52, p. 195 n. 69, suggests that David's small devotional pictures, like the Rest on the Flight paintings, were bought in the shop by customers rather than comissioned.
James Mundy. "Gerard David's 'Rest on the Flight into Egypt': Further Additions to Grape Symbolism." Simiolus 12, no. 4 (1981–82), p. 219.
Larry Silver. The Paintings of Quinten Massys with Catalogue Raisonné. Montclair, N.J., 1984, pp. 58, 177, pl. 29, cites it as the "direct inspiration" for the substitution of the "Rest" for the "Flight" in Massys's Madre de Deus altarpiece, as the source for the otherwise senseless gesture of the Virgin, and as the model for Joos van Cleve's half-length nursing Virgins
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Gerard David's Working Methods: Some Preliminary Observations." Le Dessin sous-jacent dans la peinture. Ed. Roger van Schoute and Dominique Hollanders-Favart. Colloque 5, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1985, pp. 54, 56, 58 n. 3, pl. 18 (reflectogram assembly, detail of Virgin's drapery), notes that the underdrawing is relatively summary and that "there is evidence (admittedly not easily detected) of a design transferred by pouncing"; believes that "what is left . . . is the pen and ink drawing over remnants of the pounced cartoon".
Paul Vandenbroeck. Catalogus Schilderijen 14e en 15e Eeuw: Koninklijk Museum voor schone Kunsten. Antwerp, 1985, p. 73, mentions our picture and the one in the Prado in connection with the Antwerp version, which he ascribes to a follower of David.
John Oliver Hand in John Oliver Hand and Martha Wolff. Early Netherlandish Painting. Washington, 1986, pp. 64, 67 n. 14, observes that the best example of this composition, in the Prado, is probably by David, and calls our picture an excellent replica.
Robert Genaille. "La paysage flamand et wallon au XVIe siècle." Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1986), p. 68.
Introduction by James Snyder inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Renaissance in the North. New York, 1987, pp. 12, 46, ill. (color).
Caroline Walker Bynum. Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women. Berkeley, 1987, pp. 117, 270–71.
Reindert L. Falkenburg. Joachim Patinir: Landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life. Amsterdam, 1988, pp. 27–28, 47–50.
Hans J. van Miegroet. Gerard David. Antwerp, 1989, pp. 242, 244, 246, 254, 265 nn. 61–63, pp. 271, 301–2, no. 35a, colorpl. 234 and ill. p. 301 (in both cases erroneously identified as the picture in the Prado, Madrid), confuses our painting with the version in the Prado; catalogues it as a replica of the Prado picture and dates both the Prado and Washington versions about 1515.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Gerard David, Hans J. van Miegroet." Art Bulletin 72 (December 1990), p. 653, observes that Van Miegroet has confused our painting and the Prado version in both his text and catalogue sections; believes the Washington version predates these pictures, placing it about 1505, while the New York and Madrid paintings must be later, "possibly after an Italian experience, with their hint of sfumato and their relatively more opaque applications of paint"
Jean C. Wilson. "Connoisseurship and Copies: The Case of the Rouen Grouping." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 118 (May–June 1991), pp. 192–96, 200, 204 n. 6, ill.
Lorne Campbell. "Book Reviews: Gerard David. By Hans J. van Miegroet, 1989." Burlington Magazine 133 (September 1991), p. 625, comments on the author's confusion between this picture and the Prado version.
Introduction by Walter A. Liedtke inFlemish Paintings in America: A Survey of Early Netherlandish and Flemish Paintings in the Public Collections of North America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 326, no. 177, ill.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "A Meeting of Sacred and Secular Worlds." From Van Eyck to Bruegel: Early Netherlandish Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Maryan W. Ainsworth and Keith Christiansen. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1998, pp. 71, 74, 85, 250, 252, 266–67, 280–81, 302, 308–12, no. 82, ill. (color, overall and detail), dates it about 1510–15 and the panel in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, about 1500–05; discusses the iconography.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. Gerard David: Purity of Vision in an Age of Transition. New York, 1998, pp. vii, 32–33, 55 n. 78, pp. 206, 245, 247–49, 270, 280–87, 298, 311 n. 86, pp. 318, 320, 322, 324, ill. (overall and detail), dates our painting after the version in the National Gallery, Washington, on the basis of its technique and its greater sophistication in mastering three-dimensional bodies in space; calls the picture in the Prado a weaker variant which must have been made by a workshop assistant in close collaboration with David; observes that in each of these versions the trees appear as a repeated pattern with minor modifications, evidence that David used preliminary landscape studies in their creation; notes that dendrochronological analysis reveals a felling date of 1499 for our panel's source tree.
Jean C. Wilson. Paintings in Bruges at the Close of the Middle Ages: Studies in Society and Visual Culture. University Park, Pa., 1998, pp. 91–103, 202, 219 n. 15, p. 222 n. 59, fig. 39, dates it about 1510–20.
Francisco Fernández Pardo et al., ed. Las tablas flamencas en la ruta Jacobea. Exh. cat., Claustro de la Iglesia de Palacio, Logroño. San Sebastián, Spain, 1999, p. 358.
Stephanie Buck. Die niederländischen Zeichnungen des 15. Jahrhunderts im Berliner Kupferstichkabinett: Kritischer Katalog. Turnhout, Belgium, 2001, p. 180, fig. 73.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Was Simon Bening a Panel Painter?" Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts 11–12 (2002), pp. 15–16, ill.
Maryan W. Ainsworth in Thomas Kren and Scot McKendrick. Illuminating The Renaissance: The Triumph of Flemish Manuscript Painting in Europe. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles, 2003, p. 453, ill.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "'Diverse patterns pertaining to the crafts of painters or illuminators': Gerard David and the Bening Workshop." Master Drawings 41, no. 3 (2003), p. 265.
Joaquín Yarza Luaces inGerard David y el paisaje flamenco. Exh. cat., Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, 2003, p. 64.
Maryan W. Ainsworth. "Gerard David. Vita e opere." Il Polittico della Cervara di Gerard David. Ed. Clario Di Fabio. Exh. cat., Musei di Strada Nuova — Palazzo Bianco, Genoa. Milan, 2005, pp. 21–22, fig. 9 (color), comments on the marked change between this composition and David's earlier panel of the subject from about 1500–1505 (National Gallery, Washington); sees in our example a "new successful integration of three-dimensional figures within a landscape . . . informed by Italian lessons of geometric form and the importance of shadow in creating perspective"; mentions the Lombard "Nursing Virgin" (Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan) [now attributed to Bergognone (?)] as a forerunner for the Virgin and Child in our picture.
Old Master & British Paintings. Christie's, London. December 9, 2015, p. 18, under no. 109.
E. von Bodenhausen, Gerard David und seine Schule, 1905, pp. 152–53, does not mention this picture and catalogues only the examples of this subject formerly in the Bosch collection, Madrid (now Prado) and in the Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp. He maintains that the composition, which seems to him to be indisputably by David himself, is preserved only in copies.
The Rest on the Flight into Egypt was a subject which David treated on numerous occasions and for which he invented at least four basic compositions, including this one. Apparently autograph examples of the other versions survive in a panel in the National Gallery, Washington, in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon, and the fourth, more distantly related painting, is in the Iglesia del Sacro Monte, Granada. A painting in the Prado, of longer, narrower format (59 x 40 cm), is the only example of our composition which may also be attributed to David himself. It is identical to our panel in most respects except in the substitution of a "picnic basket" for the apple branch beside the Virgin, the placement of a spoon in the child's right hand, and in the different arrangement of the foreground foliage and stones. A variation of the MMA-Prado composition in the Koninklijk Museum, Antwerp, has been ascribed to Adriaen Isenbrant, and the figures are repeated, but placed in an interior throne in this same artist's Virgin and Child in the Mauritshuis, The Hague (on loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam); these figures are reversed in his panel in the Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid. The composition was imitated in half-length by a close follower of David (MMA 32.100.53) and by Joos van Cleve (sold, Sotheby's, London, April 8, 1981, no. 86).
E. J. Mundy (1981–82, pp. 213–14) discusses the symbolic significance of broad-leaf plantain, the plant isolated at the feet of the Virgin in our picture. He notes that it was used medicinally in the 15th century as a stauncher of blood, and thus "Its presence in the Rest on the flight may serve to foreshadow unhappier days in the lives of both Mother and Child."