Landscape with the Flight into Egypt

Aelbert Cuyp (Dutch, Dordrecht 1620–1691 Dordrecht)
ca. 1650
Oil on wood
18 x 22 7/8 in. (45.7 x 58.1 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of Josephine Bieber, in memory of her husband, Siegfried Bieber, 1970
Accession Number:
Not on view
Cuyp never went to Italy, but he emulated Dutch Italianate painters who had been there, above all Jan Both (ca. 1615/18–1652). Here the Holy Family’s route to Egypt seems to lead from Rhineland rocks and trees to an idyllic coast near Genoa.
This panel of about 1650, one of the clearest examples of Cuyp's exceptional response to the Italianate landscapes of his contemporary Jan Both (ca. 1615/18–1652), shows the Holy Family on the left, traveling on a path in the light of a radiant sunset. The way to Egypt appears to have taken Mary and Joseph down the Rhine and along the coast of Liguria, although the view behind them seems an evocation of distant memories of those places rather than signs of recent experience. As is well known, Cuyp never went to Italy himself, but he borrowed the Claudian light, cisalpine motifs, and compositional ideas that Both employed in his prints and paintings. For example, Both's etching The Ferry (60.621.47) is very similar in composition to this picture and includes analogous details, such as wayfarers with donkeys, herders with cows, distant towers, and a few light clouds colored by the descending sun. Some of Both's paintings of about 1645–50 are strikingly similar to this picture in tonality as well as design, and in their idyllic mood.

About two dozen landscapes by Cuyp are enlivened by religious figures, and at least three of them by the Holy Family on their way to Egypt. A large canvas in the care of the Instituut Collectie Nederland, Amsterdam, probably painted about 1645–48, shows the Holy Family with their donkey in a river valley, passing a bagpiper quite like the one in The Met's painting. The beautiful Flight into Egypt in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art could be described as a larger and more elaborate version of the present work. And while the two paintings date from about the same time, one would imagine that the Los Angeles picture is the slightly later.

The placement of religious figures in extensive landscapes went back to the beginning of the genre in the Netherlands and continued through the seventeenth century, though by about 1650 the practice was more common in some regions (South Holland and Utrecht, for example) than in others. The story of the Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13–14) was especially popular, perhaps because many Netherlanders had fled persecution themselves, but more broadly because the subject allowed for spectacular scenery.

Cuyp's approach follows not only that of Both but also that of the Dutch Italianate landscapists in general. Cornelis van Poelenburch's Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, of 1625 (Centraal Museum, Utrecht), was evidently the first of nine pictures he devoted to the subject. Bartholomeus Breenbergh depicts the Rest on the Flight into Egypt in a panel of 1634 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Not surprisingly, one of Both's landscape etchings of the 1640s centers on the Holy Family and two donkeys on a winding road. Paulus Potter's Flight into Egypt, of 1644 (formerly Newhouse Galleries, New York), has been mentioned in connection with Cuyp's pictures, but one of the closest parallels, in date and in its sympathy with Both, is a small painting on copper of about 1645–50 by Herman van Swanevelt (ca. 1600–1655), who worked in Rome from the late 1620s until 1644, when he moved to Paris.

[2016; adapted from Liedtke 2007]
Inscription: Signed (lower left): A:C
Mrs. Edward Romilly, London (until d. 1878; posthumous sale, Christie's, London, March 23, 1878, no. 128, for 290 gns. to Colnaghi); [Colnaghi, London, from 1878]; Étienne Martin, baron de Beurnonville, Paris (until 1881; his sale, Pillet, Paris, May 9–16, 1881, no. 247, as "Paysage, soleil couchant," for Fr 10,050 to Sedelmeyer); [Sedelmeyer, Paris, from 1881; cat., 1898, no. 10; sold to Kann]; Rodolphe Kann, Paris (by 1898–d. 1905; his estate, 1905–7; cat., 1907, vol. 1, no. 34; sold to Duveen); [Duveen, London and New York, 1907–15; their sale, American Art Association, New York, April 29, 1915, no. 9, for $4,000 to Knoedler]; [Knoedler, New York, 1915–27; sale, Christie's, London, July 8, 1927, no. 114, for £441 to Duits]; [Duits, London, from 1927]; [A. S. Drey, Munich, in 1931]; Mrs. Siegfried (Josephine) Bieber, Berlin and New York (until d. 1970)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

New York. Richard L. Feigen & Co. "Richard Wilson and the British Arcadia," April 29–June 25, 2010, no. 14.

W[illiam]. Roberts. Memorials of Christie's: A Record of Art Sales from 1766 to 1896. London, 1897, vol. 1, p. 300, gives the sale price at the Romilly sale as 290 guineas.

Illustrated Catalogue of 300 Paintings by Old Masters of the Dutch, Flemish, Italian, French, and English Schools. Paris, 1898, p. 19, no. 10, ill. p. 21, as "Landscape, Evening Effect," in the collection of Rodolphe Kann.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemäldesammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. IV, pl. 28.

Wilhelm [von] Bode. Gemälde-Sammlung des Herrn Rudolf Kann in Paris. Vienna, 1900, p. XV.

Émile Michel. "La Galerie de M. Rodolphe Kann (1er article)." Gazette des beaux-arts, 3rd ser., 25 (May 1901), p. 398, calls it a youthful work.

Catalogue of the Rodolphe Kann Collection: Pictures. Paris, 1907, vol. 1, pp. IX, 36, no. 34, ill. opp. p. 36.

Marcel Nicolle. "La Collection Rodolphe Kann." Revue de l'art ancien et moderne 23 (January–June 1908), p. 198, as a work of Cuyp's first manner.

Cornelis Hofstede de Groot. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century. Ed. Edward G. Hawke. Vol. 2, London, 1909, p. 135, no. 442.

René Gimpel. Journal entry. October 8, 1910 [published in Ref. Gimpel 1966], writes that "Sir Edgar Vincent . . . came to see the Cuyp 'Flight into Egypt' from the Kann Collection, which has the most beautiful, most golden sunset created by art before Turner".

Jerrold Holmes. "The Cuyps in America." Art in America 18 (June 1930), p. 167, fig. 5, compares it with a larger version of the subject by Cuyp then in the collection of Charles T. Fisher, Detroit (now Los Angeles County Museum of Art).

René Gimpel. Diary of an Art Dealer. English ed. New York, 1966, p. 148, states that "this picture was almost completely destroyed in a fire on a French transatlantic liner en route to the United States".

John Walsh Jr. "New Dutch Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum." Apollo 99 (May 1974), p. 349, fig. 13, states that both the composition and the light reflect the work of Jan Both.

John Walsh Jr. and Cynthia P. Schneider. A Mirror of Nature: Dutch Paintings from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Edward William Carter. Exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1981, p. 43, fig. 4, under no. 10, note a third version by Cuyp of the subject, sold in Berlin in 1941, which they date to the late 1640s; date both the Los Angeles and New York versions to the early or mid-1650s.

Peter C. Sutton. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1986, p. 191, tentatively dates it to the early 1650s.

Ivan Gaskell. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Seventeenth Century Dutch and Flemish Painting. London, 1990, p. 446 n. 11, p. 447, fig. 2, under no. 105, notes the similarity of the MMA and Los Angeles paintings to "Evening Landscape" (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid; 1957.6); dates all three pictures to the early to mid-1650s.

Alan Chong. "New Dated Works from Aelbert Cuyp's Early Career." Burlington Magazine 133 (September 1991), p. 610 n. 32.

Alan Chong. "Aelbert Cuyp and the Meanings of Landscape." PhD diss., New York University, 1992, pp. 54, 348, no. 108.

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, pp. 136, 140–42, no. 32, colorpl. 32, dates it about 1650.

Richard Wilson and the British Arcadia. Exh. cat., Richard L. Feigen & Co. New York, 2010, unpaginated, no. 14, ill. (color, overall and detail).

Engraved by H. Vion.