Hat tip to The Muniment Room for reminder of this lost Catholic feast of The Flight into Egypt, 17th February, and its collect: “O God, the protector of those that hope in Thee, who didst will to deliver thy only-begotten Son, our Redeemer, from the sword of Herod, by the flight into Egypt; grant to us, thy servants, through the intercession of his most blessed mother, Mary, ever virgin, that being freed from all dangers of mind and body, we may deserve to arrive at our heavenly country.”
I painted the Flight into Egypt on the window of my classroom last year and the figures stood out well against the majestic Mediterranean scenery behind them. The subject always fascinated me – long before I had my own donkeys – for it seemed to connect the gentle posing creature of the Christmas scene with a later chapter in its life in which it is being driven on an immense and exhausting journey. Giotto’s painting in Assisi is one of the earliest depictions. It presents the Holy Family as nobility in medieval finery and the beast as the traditional mount of kings.
However, among the depictions of this scene, I think this one by Eugene-Alexis Girardet conveys the fragility of the travelling party much better.
As an example of forced migration – in extreme circumstances – it should be a reminder to us of the plight of millions in our world.