In 1692 Giordano was summoned to Spain as court painter to King Charles II. Charles was succeeded in 1700 by the Bourbon king Philip V, who commissioned a number of paintings from Giordano for the French court, including this work. From 1701 until 1717 the painting was in the possession of Adrien-Maurice, comte d'Ayen, later duc de Noailles, who played an important part in the War of the Spanish Succession and married a niece of Madame de Maintenon.
Philip V, King of Spain (until 1701; given to Noailles); Adrien Maurice, duc de Noailles, Paris (from 1701–17); Rt. Hon. Richard Rigby (until 1789; his estate sale, Christie's, London, January 9, 1789, no. 4, for £39.10.0 to Ad[ . . . ] ?for "Lord Heytesbury"); ?Sir William Pierce Ashe à Court, 1st Baronet, Heytesbury (from 1789); by descent to Lady Margaret Anna Heytesbury, Heytesbury House, Wiltshire (until d. 1920; her estate, 1920–26; her estate sale, Hampton & Sons and Edens, Heytesbury House, April 30, 1926, no. 1345); Prince Charles Max Lichnowsky, Kuchelna, Prussian Silesia and Berlin; Paul Bottenwieser, Berlin (in 1927); [Seligmann, Rey & Co., New York; sold for $800 to Kleinberger]; [Kleinberger, New York, until 1935; sold for $1,000 to Landon]; Mr. and Mrs. Harold M. Landon, Baltimore and New York (1935–61)
Antiquitätenhaus Wertheim Berlin. "Italienische Malerei des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts," May–June 1927, no. 70.
New York. World's Fair. "Masterpieces of Art: European & American Paintings, 1500–1900," May–October 1940, no. 26 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. H. M. Landon, Baltimore).
San Francisco. California Palace of the Legion of Honor. "Exhibition of Italian Baroque Painting: 17th and 18th Centuries," May 16–June 15, 1941, no. 51 (lent by Mr. And Mrs. Harold M. Landon, Baltimore).
Memphis. Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. "Luca Giordano in America: Paintings, Drawings, Prints," April 1–30, 1964, no. 27.
Michael Milkovich. Luca Giordano in America: Paintings, Drawings, Prints. Exh. cat., Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. Memphis, 1964, pp. 23, 36, no. 27, ill.
Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi. Luca Giordano. [Rome?], 1966, vol. 1, p.64 n. 20; vol. 2, p. 206; vol. 3, fig. 417, suggests that it can be dated about 1696, when Giordano entered into his classical period following his execution of frescoes at El Escorial; notes that the subject was taken up on a number of occasions by the artist.
Oreste Ferrari. Drawings by Luca Giordano in the British Museum 108 (June 1966), p. 302 n. 13, notes that the theme of the Flight into Egypt by Boat has "a strong symbolical import referring to Death and the Passion (the journey across the water seen as the crossing of the Styx and thus as a typical resolution of the cycle of life".
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Unpublished manuscript for catalogue of Neapolitan paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. [ca. 1970], describe it as a "minor, but very characteristic" example of Giordano's art, executed for Philip V of Spain; note that it must date to the early part of 1701, since the King was elected at the end of 1700, Giordano left Spain in 1702, and the painting is already mentioned in the collection of the Duc of Noailles in 1701; comment that the "utterly late-Baroque intuition of space is here dotted with accents whose link with Spain is obvious, especially in the physical type of the boatman".
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 86, 275, 609.
Oreste Ferrari and Giuseppe Scavizzi. Luca Giordano: l'opera completa. Naples, 1992, vol. 1, pp. 344–45, no. A601; vol. 2, pp. 784–85, fig. 760, compare it to the "Life of the Virgin" (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), "The Holy Family" (Prado, Madrid), and the "Adoration" (Perez Asencio collection, Madrid).
Andrea Kirsh and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. New Haven, 2000, p. 262.
John Marciari. Italian, Spanish, and French Paintings Before 1850 in the San Diego Museum of Art. San Diego, 2015, p. 223 n. 7.