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Mary and Joseph ride to Egypt with the infant Jesus. Engraving by J. Sadeler after M. de Vos.

  • Vos, Maarten de, 1532-1603.
  • Pictures

About this work


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)

Bible. N.T. Matthew 2.12-15; Apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew 20-23. Mary is breast feeding Jesus. In the background, soldiers with spears talk with a farmer. Earlier, when the holy family had passed the farmer, they had asked him to tell the pursuing soldiers that he had seen them at sowing time, which indeed it was. Overnight, God accelerated the harvest so the farmer's story, though true, would now be deceptive. The soldiers hence abandoned their search and the field is here shown being 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) The ox accompanying the ass is the ox mentioned in the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which genuflected with the ass at the Nativity. Here it continues to accompany 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 (the holy family find exile in Egypt, like the jews) A further reference in the picture is the breaking statue falling from its place on the tree. This relates to another apocryphal story from Pseudo-Matthew (chapter 23) about the infant Jesus causing the idols of an Egyptian temple to tumble and break

Physical description

1 print : line engraving


Surge, & accipe puerum & matrem ejus, & fuge in Ægyptū: & esto ibi usque dum dicam tibi. Futurum est enim ut Herodes quærat puerum ad perdendum eum. Mat. II. Joan. Sadeler schulpsit Coloniæ. Mertin de Vos inven. Cum privil. C.M.

Lettering note

Bears number in left-hand margin : 14


Wellcome Library no. 22309i



  • Latin

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