Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Netherlandish SchoolAbout 1500

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Liverpool, United Kingdom

To escape King Herod’s persecution, the Holy Family fled into Egypt. The Virgin and Child are shown resting on their journey, while in the background a date palm miraculously bends over and allows St Joseph to pick its fruit. This legendary incident is typical of the sort of detail with which artists at this period fleshed out the Bible stories. The painting is a Netherlandish version of a north Italian original, which may have been by Leonardo da Vinci.


  • Title: Rest on the Flight into Egypt
  • Creator: Netherlandish School
  • Date Created: About 1500
  • tag / style: Netherlandish; flight, Egypt, Holy Family; Virgin; Mary; St Joseph; Christ; baby; breast; suckling; date palm; town; walls; rest; halo
  • Physical Dimensions: w602 x h822 cm (Without frame)
  • Artwork History: This painting was once owned by William Roscoe. Roscoe (1753-1831) was a successful Liverpool lawyer and Radical politician whose interests included history, poetry, botany, languages and art. Remarkably, he was, on the whole, a self-educated man. To find out more about Roscoe, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/online/collectors/williamroscoe.asp
  • Additional artwork information: The picture shows Mary breast-feeding the Christ child. This image - the so-called ‘Maria Lactans’ - was one of the most popular images of the Virgin Mary made during the 14th and 15th centuries. The theme probably originated in Egypt, where the god Horus is depicted being suckled by the goddess Isis. There are also several ancient Greek and Roman mythological episodes in which goddesses feed gods. To modern eyes it seems perhaps a little forthright for a religious picture, even perhaps in slightly bad taste. Indeed it is a type of picture that went out of fashion from about 1550 onwards, although it was not in any way officially proscribed by the Catholic Church. In this painting, Mary is feeding the Christ child with her sacred milk. The milk will be turned into flesh as it nourishes his body. Milk thus becomes blood. It was common in medieval and Renaissance scientific thinking that a woman's menstrual blood ceased during breast-feeding because her blood was being transformed in some way into milk. Mary's milk differs from that of ordinary women because her body is perfect. Christ's blood, which will later be spilled on the cross, is thus directly linked to Mary's blood. To learn more about the Walker Art Gallery's 13th-16th century collection, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/13c-16c/
  • Type: Oil on wood panel
  • Rights: Presented by Liverpool Royal Institution in 1948

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more


Google apps