Bouvignes 1465/ 1490 - Antwerp 1524
oil on panel
29.3 x 33.3 x 5.5 cm
Inventory number 64
Landscape with the Flight into Egypt, the 16th-century artist
Joachim Patinir represents nature at its most diverse. The outstretched landscape
with steep rocks, the picturesque hamlet and the blue sea are all rendered so boldly that the
dramatic biblical event goes almost unnoticed. In the foreground, Joseph drives the donkey that
carries Mary and the infant Jesus. The three are fleeing to Egypt after King Herod ordered the
slaughter of all boys under the age of two. In the hamlet, soldiers are causing havoc and killing
innocent children. In the far left of the composition, an idol falls from its pedestal as Jesus,
the Son of the only true God, passes by.
Although the landscape seems realistic, it is not an existing place, and certainly not between Bethlehem and Egypt. Patinir's approach was essentially synthetic. His approach consisted in observing nature in different places and subsequently bringing various elements together. The rocks in the foreground, for example, are based on the landscape in his native region of Dinant; the hamlet is characteristic of the glowing landscape of Brabant; and the sea is reminiscent of the Italian coastline.
It was not uncommon in the early 16th century for painters to specialise in a particular genre. Among these Netherlandish genre artists, Joachim Patinir was the first true landscape painter and a real trendsetter.