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The Flight into Egypt
Turchi, Alessandro
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Turchi, Alessandro

Verona, 1578 - Rome, 1650

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The Flight into Egypt

1630 - 1633. Oil on canvas.
Room 004

Alessandro Turchi´s The flight into Egypt, early 1630s, was donated to the Museo del Prado by Ferdinand VII, founder of the museum, before 1833. The painting had not been in the Spanish Royal Collection for a long time; in fact it was acquired only a generation earlier by his father, Charles IV, while he was living in exile in Rome following Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. Charles had been an intelligent and discerning collector of works of art from his youth, and had no intention of stopping because historical circumstances obliged him to live abroad. Upon settling in Rome in 1812, taking up residence first in the Palazzo Barberini and then in the Jeronomite monastery of Sant´Alessio on the Aventine Hill -where he built a palazzetto with a picture gallery- Charles promptly set about buying works of art from various Italian dealers and living artists. Impoverished nobles and religious orders were selling valuable paintings and sculptures amidst the confusion resulting from the French invasion of the papal city, so it was a propitious moment to be forming a collection. When he died (in Naples) in January 1819, Charles IV’s collection comprised nearly 700 paintings.

Turchi, also known as L’Orbetto Veronese (a nickname meaning the small blind Veronese, although it was Alessandro’s father who was blind, not him) came to Rome from his native Verona, probably in the early 1610s, and had a successful career as a painter of altar pieces and gallery pictures for collectors. He was prominent in the Accademia di San Luca, the association of artists in Rome, and was its principe (principal) on several occasions. The flight into Egypt was painted in the first half of the 1630s for the church of San Romualdo in Piazza Santi Apostoli, consecrated in 1633 (now demolished), and it became one of the artist’s most celebrated and admired public works in the city. In his biography of Turchi, Giovanni Battista Passeri (d. 1679) devoted a long passage to the work, praising the beauty of its colouring and its attractive and finished appearance. These qualities are particularly apparent after the recent cleaning of the work for this exhibition. The success of the composition is attested to by several early copies of the painting, including some executed by Turchi himself.

The subject of the painting -Mary, Jesus and Joseph fleeing the persecution of King Herod- was traditionally treated in a horizontal format, with a strong landscape element and the figures shown sideways-on. Turchi has adapted it to suit the requirements of a vertical altarpiece and took the bold decision of arranging the figures moving forward, towards the viewer, with the Virgin and Child given due prominence by being placed high in the painting. The Holy Family is guided by two angels, one of whom bears the lily associated with the purity of Saint Joseph, and the other, singled out for special praise by Passeri (an angel who has the air of a wanton and charming youth, wearing a soft and slight white drapery which flutters in the air leaving his breast and right arm bare), pointing the way forward. It has been observed that the prototype for this figure was the music-playing angel in Caravaggio´s Rest on the flight into Egypt, 1597 (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome), but in fact the pose is much more similar to that of the Apollo Belvedere, the celebrated ancient sculpture in the Vatican, only in reverse. The presence of the angels in the picture is accounted for by the dedication of the altar in San Romualdo to the Virgin, Saint Joseph and the Guardian Angels. The monument on the right, crowned with two Egyptian obelisks, signals that the Holy Family is approaching its destination (Finaldi, G.: Italian Masterpieces. From Spain´s Royal Court, Museo del Prado, 2014, p. 138).

Technical data

Related artworks

The Flight into Egypt
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Real Establecimiento Litográfico de Madrid
The Flight into Egypt
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Printing on japon, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Madrazo y Agudo, José de
The Flight into Egypt
Lithographic aquatint, Crayon lithography, Pen lithography, Scraper on wove paper, 1832 - 1837
Madrazo y Agudo, José de
Inventory number
Turchi, Alessandro
The Flight into Egypt
1630 - 1633
Height: 284 cm; Width: 200 cm
Royal Collection (Church of San Romualdo, Roma; acquired by Carlos IV, Roma, 1810; Palacio Real, Madrid, pieza de comer que fue del Sr. D. Carlos IV, 1827).

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, A.E., Algunos cuadros inéditos del Barroco veneciano, Goya: Revista de Arte, 59, 1955, pp. 349.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965, pp. 568.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. 556.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Magagnato, L., Cinquant'Anni Di Pittura Veronese.1580-1630, Neri Pozza, Verona, 1974, pp. 122-123, nº 118.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 716-717.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990.

Bettagno, Alessandro, El Museo del Prado, Fonds MercatorFundación Amigos del Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1996, pp. 314.

Finaldi, Gabriele, Works by Alessandro Turchi for Spain and an unexpected Velázquez connection., The Burlington magazine, 149, 2007, pp. 756/ lám.12.

Francesco Cozza e il suo tempo: atti del convegno, Valmonte, Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Rubbettino, 2009, pp. 157-175.

Finaldi, G, Alessandro Turchi 'The flight into Egypt' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 138.

Other inventories +

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 505.

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 727.
Turchi (Alejandro) / 727. Huida a Egipto / Dos ángeles guian a la sagrada familia; uno de ellos conduce al jumento en que van la Virgen y el Niño, y el otro acompaña a san José, que marcha a pie. Este cuadro fue pintado para la iglesia de San Romualdo en Roma, y lo compro Carlos 4º estando en aquella capital. (C.L.) / Alto 10 pies, 3 pulg; ancho 7 pies, 2 pulg.

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

317; 2
Inscribed in pen and ink. Stretcher

317 [invertido]
Inscribed. Stretcher

M.N.PRADO / 00461
On metallic tablet. Stretcher

Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Inscribed with chalk. Stretcher

Nº461 (2 veces)
Scrap of paper. Stretcher

Inscribed. Stretcher

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Location +

Room 004 (On Display)

Update date: 11-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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