Growing demand for panel paintings in early sixteenth-century Antwerp, encouraged artists to specialize and collaborate; this picture was probably the result of such a collaboration. The charming landscape is comparable to those ascribed to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths, who apparently trained in Joachim Patinir's workshop, while the Virgin and Child may be from the workshop of Quentin Massys.
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Fig. 1. Infrared reflectogram detail showing underdrawing for tree branches
Fig. 2. X-radiograph detail
Fig. 3. Infrared reflectogram detail showing underdrawing of the Virgin and Child
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Credit Line:H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
The Painting: In this peaceful scene, the Holy Family pauses during their flight from Herod and his soldiers; the Virgin and Child rest by a fountain as Joseph searches for fruit in the nearby trees. Textual precedence for this subject is found in a short passage from the Bible (Matthew 2:13–18) and source material for some of the small narrative scenes within the painting derives from later apocryphal writings (the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, chapters 17–24, and the Arabic Gospel of the Savior’s Infancy, chapters 10–55). In this depiction the touching moment between mother and son takes place by a small lake in the midst of which stands a fanciful castle. An ornamented fountain abuts the left edge of the painting, its crowning statue broken, alluding to the Fall of the Idols that tumbled from their plinths as the Holy Family traveled through Heliopolis (described in Pseudo-Matthew). The middle landscape is populated by the grazing donkey who carried the Virgin and her son; just behind, two white swans float on the placid water of the lake. Various figures inhabit the middle and background, their brightly colored clothing drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. In the left background, the legend of the miraculous wheat field unfolds as Herod’s soldiers are confounded on their search for the Holy Family. The inclusion of such narrative elements is consistent with similar depictions of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt by early sixteenth-century painters like Joachim Patinir (Netherlandish, active by 1515–died 1524 Antwerp). Indeed, the picture, after having been “deftly restored,” was purchased rather optimistically as a Patinir in 1901. This indicates that the painting was already in need of some treatment by the turn of the twentieth century, perhaps a particular reference to the state of the main figures, which are noticeably less well preserved (see Technical Notes).
Attribution and Date: Comparing the relative technical refinement of the central figures and their surroundings supports the hypothesis that at least two artists were involved in the production of this painting. As has been noted, the Virgin and Child are of inferior quality to the details of flora and fauna that richly embellish the scene. Collaboration was a common feature of sixteenth-century painting practice in Antwerp. Artists like Patinir, who were known for their landscapes, shared work with specialists in other genres, such as figure painting.
Evidence of the collaboration between specialists in landscape and in figural painting on works like The Met’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt is found through technical examination, including analysis of underdrawing and paint application. In the case of this picture, the underdrawing is only visible in the infrared reflectogram in isolated areas (see Technical Notes and fig. 1 above). What underdrawing is visible is consistent in style, indicating that a single hand was responsible for this preparatory stage. The lack of a thorough underdrawing shows that the artist was not experimenting with the composition directly on the prepared panel. This minimal underdrawing may indicate an artist working from an existing model drawing or one who knew the subject matter so well that little compositional sketching was required.
The x-radiograph of this work confirms the participation of two artists in the paint stages: one who painted the landscape first, followed by the figure painter. Examining the leftmost corner of the Virgin’s long white shawl, it can be discerned that the flower stems were set down before the white of Mary’s garment, which was painted around the thin stalks (see Technical Notes and fig. 2).
This painting was previously attributed to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths (possibly a member of Patinir’s workshop) and a collaborator, with the landscape portion ascribed to the provisionally-named artist and the central figures given to an unidentified painter. However, the Master of the Female Half-Lengths was so named because of his figures, not his landscapes, which in any event show such varied treatment that they must be by several different artists. In the catalogue accompanying the Patinir exhibition at the Prado in 2007, Alejandro Vergara describes three groups of paintings connected to the master landscape artist. Vergara’s third group comprises works that “were probably made as knock-offs of Patinir’s style by artists who had no connection to him, and were simply taking advantage of the market for this type of painting, following the success of his innovative landscape formula.” It is likely that The Met’s painting falls into this category. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt clearly echoes Patinir’s landscapes, strongly suggesting that two artists, working after the master’s example, collaborated to make the painting on spec for the pand (an open market specifically for artworks) in Antwerp around mid-century.
Nenagh Hathaway 2017
 Written source material for Patinir’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt paintings is discussed in the catalogue entries for the exhibition catalogue Patinir: Essays and Critical Catalogue. Ed. Alejandro Vergara. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007. For Patinir’s iconography of the Rest on the Flight and its interpretation as a visual pilgrimage see also Reindert Falkenburg, Joachim Patinir: Landscape as an Image of the Pilgrimage of Life, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1988, pp. 16–57.  For a more detailed account of the miracle and its possible source see Patinir, 2007, p. 193 n. 18.  See Havemeyer 1961.  See Sprinson de Jesús 1998, pp. 266–67. The marked difference is in part due to condition issues localized in the area of the Virgin and Child (see Technical Notes).  See Sprinson de Jesús 1998, pp. 266–67.  Both Robert Koch (1968) and Walter Gibson (1989) promote a more favorable view of the Master of the Female Half-Lengths as a landscape painter (Robert A. Koch, Joachim Patinir, Princeton, New Jersey, 1968, and Walter S. Gibson, Mirror of the Earth: The World Landscape in Sixteenth-Century Flemish Painting Princeton, 1989). These authors may be—at least in part—responsible for the attribution of works like The Met’s Rest on the Flight to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths. The general absence of this master from the recent Prado exhibition catalogue further underscores the distance between his works and Patinir.  See Alejandro Vergara, “Who was Patinir? What is a Patinir,” in Patinir: Essays and Critical Catalogue. Ed. Alejandro Vergara. Exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2007, p. 29.
Support:The support was constructed from two panels, estimated to be oak, with the grain oriented in the horizontal direction. The presence of unpainted margins on all four edges and traces of a barbe indicate that the painting was in an engaged frame when the panel was prepared and that the dimensions are original. The panel has been thinned to a thickness of 7 mm and cradled.
Preparation: The panel was prepared with a white ground. There does not appear to be an additional overall colored priming layer, although some passages were blocked in with a carbon-containing paint, evident in the infrared reflectogram (see fig. 3 above). Infrared reflectography also revealed a few areas of underdrawing, executed using what appears to be a dry medium. The contours of the Virgin and Child were loosely outlined and the shadows of the Virgin’s drapery indicated with hatching. Carbon-containing paint is likely obscuring more underdrawing in the background, but a few lines could be detected where the underdrawing was not exactly followed with paint. For example, the underdrawing for the loose bags wrapped around the walking stick to the lower right of the Virgin, which were shifted downward in the painting, are evident, as are the large looping curves indicating tree branches at upper left (fig. 1). The handling of these lines is akin to the loose curves that describe the Child’s clenched fist, suggesting that the background and the central figures in the foreground were underdrawn by the same hand.
Paint Layers: While the underdrawing is quite consistent, examination of both the painting technique and the order of execution suggested that the background and the foreground figures were executed by different hands. The myriad details in the background were deftly described with fine brushstrokes and a confidence of light and form not evident in the foreground figures, which were painted with broader brushstrokes, more blended paint, and less proficiency in general. This contrast is particularly striking when the simplistic modelling of the Virgin’s clothing is compared with the more subtle folds of cloth spilling out of the wicker basket to the lower right.
Furthermore, the order in which the painting was executed points to a division of labor. The background was painted first, with a reserve left for the Virgin and Child. This was not simply an approximate reserve to maintain clarity of color but a precise outline, where even the stalks of the plantain in front of the Virgin’s white cloth at lower left were painted first. The white cloth of the drapery was then painted around the small details of the plant. Evident both in microscopic examination and in the buildup of the white paint around the stalks in the x-radiograph, this execution of such a tiny detail of the background suggests that one artist painted every element of the landscape before then turning the painting over to a figure painter (fig. 2).
The painting’s uneven state of preservation both complicates this analysis and undermines the original attractions of the painting, notably the main figures and some of the richness and complexity of the intricate landscape. A moderate amount of abrasion in the fleshtones, particularly in the Child’s upper torso, now mediated with retouching, muddies and flattens the fleshtones. A join in the wood panel, with many attendant paint losses, runs through the Virgin’s face. There is abrasion in the browns throughout the painting. In particular, the large castle at center has suffered: the point of intersection between the building and the water is confusing. There are several pinpoint losses in the lower left quadrant of the composition. Aside from these localized losses and areas of abrasion, much of the background remains in generally good condition, including the small details of architecture, miniscule figures and foliage. Some of the green passages have discolored, as is characteristic of aged copper-containing green paint.
Sophie Scully 2017
 Infrared reflectography completed with a Merlin Indigo InGaAs near-infrared camera with a StingRay macro lens customized for the wavelengths covered by the camera, 0.9 to 1.7 microns, August 2014.
[Señor (?Lucas) Moreno, Madrid; sold as by Patinir to Havemeyer for 20,000 pesetas in 1901]; Mr. and Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, New York (1901–his d. 1907; as by Patinir); Mrs. H. O. (Louisine W.) Havemeyer, New York (1907–d. 1929)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The H. O. Havemeyer Collection," March 10–November 2, 1930, no. 60 (as Flemish School, early 16th century) [2nd ed., 1958, no. 31].
New York. IBM Gallery. "The Christmas Story in Art," December 13, 1965–January 8, 1966, no. 10 (as Flemish School, early 16th century).
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. 69 (as "Attributed to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths and collaborator).
THIS WORK MAY NOT BE LENT.
H. O. Havemeyer Collection: Catalogue of Paintings, Prints, Sculpture and Objects of Art. n.p., 1931, p. 35, ill., as Flemish School, early sixteenth century.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 35.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961, pp. 160–62, states that it was purchased in Spain as a Patinir and notes that the seller—Señor Moreno, a dealer later operating in Paris—explained that a "tiny altar lamp had done some damage to the picture, which had been deftly restored"; adds that they purchased it for 20,000 pesetas.
Louisine W. Havemeyer. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. Ed. Susan Alyson Stein. 3rd ed. [1st ed. 1930, repr. 1961]. New York, 1993, pp. 160–62, 326 n.221.
Susan Alyson Stein inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pp. 229, 286.
Gretchen Wold inSplendid Legacy: The Havemeyer Collection. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 341, no. A279, ill.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 265, ill.
Mary Sprinson de Jesús inFrom 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. 266–67, 302, 323, 344, no. 69, ill. (color), catalogues it as "Attributed to the Master of the Female Half-Lengths and Collaborator," ascribing the landscape to the former artist, and the Virgin and Child to a painter stylistically close to Quentin Metsys; dates it about 1525.
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