Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Luc Olivier Merson 1846–1920
Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Oil on canvas
71.8 x 128.3 cm (28 1/4 x 50 1/2 in.)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Primarily a history painter, Merson`s oeuvre contains a large number of religious works which were based on the Apocrypha or the Golden Legend

He was also responsible for a number of mosaics in the Basilica of Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre

In this work above he composed an entirely original iconography on the Holy Family which became very popular

He painted this theme a number of times. This version in Boston is only one

The child Jesus rests in the arms of his mother. Both are in the niche of a sphinx. They are illuminated by some form of divine light

Joseph lies on the ground near a fire which is slowly going out

Sometimes the work highlights the fact that they are beside the ruins of an Egyptian temple. 

Alternative titles include: A l’ombre d’Isis and  Les Vierges mères

The infant Messiah, the Light and bringer of the Gospel, rests in the remains of a temple  of Ra-Horakhty 
of an Egyptian religion whose gods have died out. He has ousted them and taken over their thrones