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The Flight into Egypt
El Greco
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El Greco

Candía (Creta), 1541 - Toledo, 1614

The Flight into Egypt

Ca. 1570. Oil on pine panel, 15.9 x 21.6 cm.

This small panel -it is practically a miniature- is truly exceptional among El Greco’s works. In it, he employs landscape as an essential compositional element while simultaneously demonstrating his mastery of the techniques and expressive resources of 16th-century Venetian painting. The Holy Family is depicted on its journey to Egypt, fleeing the persecution of Herod, who decreed the execution of all babies born in Bethlehem after the Three Kings informed him of the birth of the King of the Jews. The Gospel of Saint Matthew succinctly narrates this episode: When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up", he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him". So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt (Matthew 2: 13-14).

The iconography of this simple passage grew increasingly rich throughout the Middle Ages, thanks to different traditions from the Apocrypha and The Golden Legend. Thus, new episodes and characters were added, expanding the original evangelical description. None of these extra-biblical additions appear in the present work. El Greco places the story’s three essential characters in a beautiful and hilly evening landscape. Mary sits on a donkey, carrying her Child in her arms. The infant is depicted as a lively and chubby boy whose curiosity leads him to turn his head to watch Saint Joseph’s efforts to pull the donkey onto the bridge. This uncommon gesture recalls Correggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds and emphasizes Joseph’s active role in the flight.

The landscape that El Greco chose for this scene is quite rugged and its predominantly ocher palette contrasts with the intense blue sky filled with cottony clouds. The warm, oblique sunshine fills the scene with its own luminosity, generating a subtle succession of lights and shadows. The fluid, vermicular brushstrokes and the conception of the sky are characteristic of this period. The painting is first mentioned in 1682, when it was at the Palazzo della Vigna, the Roman residence of Gaspar Ménedez de Haro, VII Marquis of el Carpio (1629-1687) (Text drawn from Ruiz, L.: El Greco en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo Razonado, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, p. 32; El Greco. Guía de sala, Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2011, p. 12).

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Technical data

Inventory number
El Greco
The Flight into Egypt
Ca. 1570
Pine panel
High/Height: 15.9 cm.; Width: 21.6 cm.
Collection of Gaspar Méndez de Haro y Guzmán, VII Marquis del Carpio and Heliche; probably in the Collection of the House of Alba; Antonio Gorostiza Collection, 1904-ca. 1926; Thomas Andrews Collection, London?; sold by Mrs. Marie Sterner to Agnew in 1929, New York, and bought that year by Baron Robert von Hirsch, Basel; sold at Sotheby's Parke Bernet, London, June 21, 1978 (Lot No. 115); bought by the Spanish State at Christie's, London, December 13, 2000 (Lot No. 71); assigned to the Prado Museum, 2001.

Bibliography +

Exposición de pintura retrospectiva, Bilbao, 1904, pp. n.81.

Cossío, Manuel B.1857-1935, El Greco, Madrid Victoriano Suárez, 1908, pp. 555 n.31.

Mayer, A. L., Domenico Theotocopuli el Greco, Munich, 1926, pp. 7 n.24.

Waterhouse, E., El Greco's Italian period, 1930, pp. 61-88.

Mayer, August L.1885-1944, El Greco, Berlin Klinkhardt Und Biermann, 1931, pp. 13.

Legendre, M. Hartmann, A., Domenico Theotocopouli dit el Greco, Paris Hyperion, 1937, pp. 129.

Gómez Moreno, Manuel, El Greco (Domenico Theotocopuli)., Barcelona Ediciones selectas, 1943, pp. 48 Lám. IV.

Camón Aznar, José1898-1979, Dominico Greco, Madrid Espasa-Calpe, 1950, pp. 59.

Camón Aznar, José1898-1979, Dominico Greco, Madrid Espasa-Calpe, 1950, pp. 59 n.68.

Martin-Méry, Gilberte, Domenico Theotocopuli dit Le Greco. 1541-1614. De la Crete a Tolède par Venise, Burdeos Delmas, 1953, pp. n.11.

Arte Veneta. Alfieri,, 1954, pp. 220 n.47.

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, La pintura española fuera de España, Madrid Espasa-Calpe, 1958, pp. n.1190.

Wethey, Harold, El Greco and his school, Princenton Princenton University Press, 1962, pp. 56-57.

Wethey, Harold, El Greco and his school, Princenton Princenton University Press, 1962, pp. 21.

Longhi, R., Un monografia su El Greco e due suoi inediti SANSONI EDITORE, 1963, pp. 52.

Salas, Xavier de, La obra pictórica completa de el Greco, Barcelona Madrid Noguer, 1970, pp. n.12.

Camón Aznar, José, Dominico Greco, Madrid Espasa-Calpe, 1970, pp. 75 n.68.

Gudiol, José1904-1985, El Greco 1541-1614: Doménikos Theotokópoulos, Barcelona Polígrafa, 1971, pp. 28-33 n.340.

Pita Andrade, José Manuel, El Greco, Milán Arnoldo Mondadori, 1981, pp. n.12.

Da Tiziano a El Greco: per la storia del Manierismo a Venezi, Milán Electa, 1981, pp. n.105.

Hadjinicolaou, Nicos, El Greco Byzantium and Italy, Crete Crete university press, 1990, pp. 207.

Álvarez Lopera, José, El Greco: la obra esencial, Madrid Silex, 1993, pp. 27 n.10.

Marías, Fernando, El Greco. Biografía de un pintor extravagante, Madrid Nerea, 1997, pp. 72,73 y 332.

Subasta del 13 de diciembre de 2000 CHRISTIE'S, MANSON & WOODS LTD, 2000, pp. n.71.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Madrid Museo del PradoAldeasa, 2001, pp. 84-85.

Museo Nacional del Prado. Memoria de Actividades: adquisiciones 2001 MUSEO DEL PRADO / MINISTERIO DE CUL, 2001, pp. 22-23.

Portús, Javier, La Coleccion de Pintura Española en el Museo del Prado, Madrid Edilupa, 2003, pp. 57.

Constantoudaki-Kitromilides, Maria, ''La huida a Egipto y la producción juvenil de El Greco''. En: El Greco, Madrid Galaxia gutenberg - Fundación amigos del Museo del Prado, 2003, pp. 21.

Martínez-Burgos García, Palma, El Greco: el pintor humanista, obra completa, Madrid Libsa, 2005, pp. 218.

Álvarez Lopera, José, El Greco estudio y catálogo, Madrid Fundación de Apoyo a la Historia, 2005, pp. 52.

Alvarez Lopera, J, 'Domenico Theotocopuli La huida Egipto' En: Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, Madrid T.F. Editores - Fundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, 2006, pp. 1299-1301.

Ruiz Gomez, Leticia, El Greco en el Museo Nacional del Prado. Catálogo razonado, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2007, pp. 32-37 n.1.

Ruíz Manero, J. M., Los Bassano en España, Madrid Fundación Universitaria Española, 2011, pp. 386, n.12NB [No Bassano] ; il.LXVIII.

Mena, M. Albarrán, V., La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2013, pp. 19 n.55.

Mena Marques, M, La belleza encerrada: de Fra Angelico a Fortuny, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2013, pp. 138.

Marías, Fernando, El Greco. Historia de un pintor extravagante, Donostia Nerea, 2013, pp. 58.

Mena Marques, M. Albarrán,V. Azúa,, La belleza cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado, Barcelona Museo del Prado - Obra Social ''La Caixa'', 2014, pp. 83.

Ruiz, Leticia, 'Que sus pinturas no se equivoquen con Tiziano. La construcción pictórica del Greco' En:, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2014, pp. 51-75 [55].

Ruiz, L, 'El uso de estampas en la pintura de El Greco' En:, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2014, pp. 78-107 [85].

Rodríguez Velasco, María, 'Realeza divinidad y humanidad en la infancia de Cristo.La huída a Egipto'. En: El Greco en Madrid. Belleza y significado., Madrid Arzobispado de Madrid,, 2014, pp. 141-146.

Prado captive beauty : treasures from the Prado Museum Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, 2015, pp. n.13.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (desde 1856). Núm. 2587.

Exhibitions +

Captive Beauty. Treasures from the Prado Museum
10.10.2015 - 31.01.2016

Belleza Cautiva. Pequeños tesoros del Museo del Prado
16.07.2014 - 05.01.2015

Captive Beauty. Small Treasures at the Prado Museum
16.07.2014 - 05.01.2015

Captive Beauty. Fra Angelico to Fortuny
21.05.2013 - 10.11.2013

El Greco in the Prado
04.12.2007 - 17.02.2008

Update date: 10-02-2016 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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