Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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The Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Artist:
Pier Francesco Mola (Italian, Coldrerio 1612–1666 Rome)
Medium:
Oil on copper
Dimensions:
9 x 11 in. (22.9 x 27.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Wrightsman Fund, 1993
Accession Number:
1993.20
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 623
The story depicted in this exquisite painting is from the apocryphal gospels. Mola gives the subject a charming informality—the Christ Child, nearly nude, climbs into Mary’s lap, and an angel waters the donkey at a pool on the left. Although born near Como, Mola spent most of his life in Rome. In his work, the classical tradition established by Annibale Carracci is tempered by Titian’s poetic feeling for landscape.
The story of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt is from the apocryphal gospel of the Pseudo Matthew. Mola imbues the subject with a charming informality—the Christ Child, nearly nude, climbs into Mary’s lap, and an angel waters the donkey at a pool on the left.

The composition owes much to Mola’s training with Francesco Albani (1578–1660), who reinterpreted this subject many times throughout his long career, notably a picture in the Musée National du Château, Fontainebleau, which Albani sold in May 1637 (Stéphane Loire, L'Albane, 1578–1660, exh. cat., Musée du Louvre, Paris, [Paris, 2000], p. 80), and a small variant of it in the collection of the Earl of Yarborough at Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, of which Mola made an etching (The Met, 47.100.887; see Additional Images, fig. 1) of exactly the same size and dedicated to a Bolognese patron, thus dating it from about 1635 to 1637. Albani’s compositions particularly inspired the pose of Joseph, the motif of the angel watering the donkey, and even to a certain extent the posture of the Christ Child in the MMA picture, one of at least five treatments of the subject that Mola painted. Among these are a depiction that includes a statue of a sphinx, acquired by Catherine the Great (State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg), and a large canvas in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome, closely based on the etching Mola executed at least a decade earlier. Most of the variants show small figures set in extensive landscapes and have three cherub heads hovering above the Madonna. The pose of the Christ Child reappears in reverse in Mola’s early painting the Assumption of the Magdalen (Galleria Pallavicini, Rome; attributed by Richard Cocke [1972] to Mola's pupil G. B. Bancuore).

This cabinet picture is generally thought to date from before Mola established himself in Rome in 1647. A more precise dating is suggested by Mola’s sketch (British Museum, London) for a fresco of 1641–42 in the church of the Madonna del Carmelo in the artist’s native town of Coldrerio, his first documented public commission. On the verso of the sketch is a freely executed wash drawing of the landscape seen from Mola’s family’s house. As Mola has indicated in inscriptions on the drawing, it shows an old apple tree silhouetted before the valley of Brusata. Either this drawing or a memory of the scene inspired the chain of mountains on the horizon seen across an extensive valley in the MMA painting, as well as the trunk of an old tree slanting toward the landscape and echoing the diagonal movement of the clambering Christ Child.

[2011; adapted from Fahy 2005]
Monsieur Duval, Geneva (until 1846; his sale, Phillips, London, May 12–13, 1846, no. 69, for £350); Henry Petty-FitzMaurice, 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne, Bowood, Calne, Wiltshire (by 1854–d. 1863); Marquesses of Lansdowne, Bowood (from 1863); Charles Maurice Petty-FitzMaurice, Earl of Shelburne, Bowood (until 1992; sold to Agnew); [Agnew, London, 1992–93; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," January–March 1884, no. 259 (as "Holy Family," lent by the Marquis of Lansdowne).

London. Burlington Fine Arts Club. "Italian Art of the Seventeenth Century," 1925, no. 3 (as "The Repose on the Flight into Egypt," lent by the Marquess of Lansdowne).

London. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. "Loan Exhibition of the Lansdowne Collection," December 8, 1954–January 29, 1955, no. 49 (as "The Holy Family").

London. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. "England and the Seicento," November 6–December 7, 1973, no. 39 (lent by the Marquess of Lansdowne).

London. Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. "Agnew's 175th Anniversary," June 9–July 24, 1992, no. 7.

THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT, BY TERMS OF ITS ACQUISITION BY THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART.

[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 3, p. 158, as in the collection of the Marquess of Lansdowne, at Bowood.

"Royal Academy.—Winter Exhibition. (Third Notice.)." Athenæum no. 2936 (February 2, 1884), p. 157.

George E. Ambrose. Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures Belonging to the Marquess of Lansdowne, K.G., at Lansdowne House, London, and Bowood, Wilts. [London], 1897, p. 63, no. 141, as "The Holy Family"; erroneously as on panel.

Stella Rudolph. "Contributo per Pier Francesco Mola." Arte illustrata 2 (March–April 1969), p. 17, fig. 1, as at Bowood; calls it "Sacra Famiglia" in the text and "Il riposo" in the caption.

Richard Cocke. Pier Francesco Mola. Oxford, 1972, pp. 17, 44, 67, 71, no. 3, pl. 25, erroneously as on panel; calls it perhaps the earliest of three versions of the subject, all of which he dates to Mola's early period (the other two are in the National Gallery, London, and a private collection, Milan); notes the influence of Albani in the figures; thinks it was probably painted in Bologna, and then possibly taken by Mola to Rome, since it influenced his pupil Bancuore's "Vision of the Magdalen" (Pallavicini collection, Rome).

Clovis Whitfield. England and the Seicento. Exh. cat., Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. London, 1973, unpaginated, no. 39, ill., notes Cocke's (1972) dating of the picture to Mola's time in Bologna (i.e., 1645–47), when he was influenced by Albani, but believes that the picture also derives from the Roman work of Badalocchio and Domenichino.

D. Stephen Pepper. "England and the Seicento, Bolognese Paintings from British Collections at Agnew's." Burlington Magazine 115 (December 1973), p. 827, calls Albani and Schedoni the predominating influences on the picture.

Ann Sutherland Harris. "Review of Cocke 1972." Art Bulletin 56 (June 1974), pp. 289–90, includes it with a group of paintings that fits a contemporary description of Mola's early style, before his return to Rome in 1647.

Agnew's 175th Anniversary. Exh. cat., Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. London, 1992, unpaginated, no. 7, ill. (color), dates it to the second half of the 1640s.

Ann Sutherland Harris in The Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 21, New York, 1996, p. 806, includes it with a group of works she believes probably dates from before 1647, and which shows the influence of Venetian painting in the landscapes and of Albani in the idyllic mood.

Everett Fahy in The Wrightsman Pictures. Ed. Everett Fahy. New York, 2005, pp. 50–52, no. 13, ill. (color), relates it to a landscape sketch (British Museum, London; 1898.1216.1) for a fresco of 1641–42 in the church of the Madonna del Carmelo, Coldrerio.

Keith Christiansen. "Going for Baroque: Bringing 17th-Century Masters to the Met." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 62 (Winter 2005), p. 14, fig. 8 (color).



Richard Cocke (1972) includes six versions of this subject in his catalogue raisonné of the artist. He believes the MMA picture to be the earliest. The others are in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; National Gallery, London; private collection, Milan; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nevers; and Palazzo Doria, Rome.
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