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Mary and Joseph ride to Egypt with the infant Jesus. Engraving.

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Credit: Mary and Joseph ride to Egypt with the infant Jesus. Engraving. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

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Bible. N.T. Matthew 2.12-15. Joseph is warned in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt; thus they avoid Herod's massacre of the holy innocents (Matthew 2.16)

In the background, four soldiers with spears talk with a farmer. Earlier, when the holy family had passed the farmer, they had asked him to tell the soldiers who were pursuing them that he had seen them at sowing time, which indeed it was. Overnight, God accelerated the harvest so that the farmer's story, though true, would now be deceptive. The soldiers hence abandoned their search; the field is shown harvested. Louis Réau tells us that the iconography of this story is plentiful but its sources are obscure ('Iconographie de l'art chrétien', Paris, 1957, vol. 2, p. 279). Other details: Joseph carries a carpenter's saw with a serrated edge. The ox trailing behind the family is the ox mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which genuflected with the ass at the Nativity. Here it continues to follow the procession, perhaps because of the symbolism it had accrued. An interpretation by Gregory of Nyssa has it that the ass and the ox represent the gentile and the jew

Physical description

1 print : line engraving


Fuga in Aegyptum

Lettering note

Bears number in left-hand margin : 14


Wellcome Library no. 21438i



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