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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

The Flight into Egypt

Photo: Elizabeth Mann

The Flight into Egypt

ca. 1638-40

Francisco de Zurbarán

Spanish, 1598 - 1664

Seventeenth-century religious painters strove to make stories from the Bible real and compelling for their contemporary audiences. Here Zurbarán, one of Spain’s most distinctive painters, addresses events that followed the birth of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospel of Matthew: Jesus’ father Joseph was warned in a dream that the jealous King Herod was threatening his infant son’s life. Joseph immediately packed up the family and they fled to safety in Egypt. The Virgin Mary and Jesus are portrayed as an ordinary Spanish mother and child. Yet their frontal orientation invites veneration from worshippers who would have been the original audience for this painting. Joseph walks next to the donkey, tenderly attentive to his wife and son. Contemporary viewers would have recognized his broad hat, cloak and staff as emblems of pilgrimage, a virtuous activity among faithful Christians.
Oil on canvas
Image: 59 1/16 x 62 5/8 in. (150 x 159cm)
Frame: 70 1/2 x 73 3/4 in. (179.1 x 187.3cm)
Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth
Provenance: (Possibly in collection of Jerónimo de Tordera, who owned two paintings of this subject by Zurbarán in 1659); ([Possibly sold at auction at Hôtel de MM. Les Commissaires-Priseurs de la Seine, Paris, 24 May 1839, as “No. 17: Zurbarán. La fuite en Egypte”]); Collection of François J. Devaux, Brussels, by ca. 1985; purchased by Jean Claude Serre, Paris, France, ca. 1985-at least 2001; [Agnew’s Gallery, London, by 2004]; purchased from gallery by Barney A. Ebsworth, Hunts Point, WA
Photo: Elizabeth Mann
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistorySeville, Spain, Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla, Zurbarán, IV Centenario, Oct. 8-Dec. 9, 1998. Cat. no. 51.

Bergamo, Italy, Galeria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo, La luce del vero: Caravaggio, La Tour, Rembrandt, Zurbarán, Sept. 10-Dec. 17, 2000. Cat. no. 14.

Maastricht, the Netherlands, Agnew’s at 17th European Fine Art Fair, March 2004

Ferrara, Italy, Rerrara Palazzo dei Diamanti, Zurbarán (1598-1664), Sept. 14, 2013-May 6, 2014. Cat. no. 21.

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Francisco de Zurbaran: A New Perspective, June 9-Sept. 13, 2015. Cat. no. 20, pp. 100-101, reproduced p. 101.
Published ReferencesDelenda, Odile, Zurbarán y su época, Actas del symposium Internacional, 1998, Fuente de Cantos, Llerena, Guadalupe, pp. 18-19, illus. Fig. 6

Delenda, Odile, “Zurbarán después de su IV Centenario” (Nuevos documentos, obras nuevas), Archivo Español de Arte, 2001, no. 293, pp. 7-9, Fig. 5

Valdivieso, Enrique, Pintura Barroca Sevillana, 2003, p. 274, 276, 607, Fig. 253

Delenda, Odile, Francisco de Zurbarán (catalogue raisonné of paintings), Wildenstein Institute, 2009

Delenda, Odile et al. "Zurbarán (1598-1664)." Ferrara: Fondazione Ferrara Arte, 2013, cat. no. 21, p. 160, illus. p. 161

Wismer, Beat, et al. "Zurbarán." Exh. cat. Dusseldorf: Museum Kunstpalast and Munich: Hirmer, 2015; p. 31 [not in exhibition].

Sadion, Martine (ed.). La Fuite en Egypte. Exh. Cat. Epinal: Musée de l'image, 2017; p. 63, reproduced [not in exhibition].

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