In 1572 Veronese painted another altarpiece depicting this subject, now in the Ringling Museum. That commission must have come with stipulations – the scene shown is undramatic, yet elements of it prefigure Christ’s death. The painting here is very different; as it dramatically depicts the moment of Christ’s first miracle, it brings into play many of the ideas Veronese explored in preparatory drawings for the subject.
Fleeing King Herod’s massacre, Joseph, Mary and the infant Christ rest at an oasis during a storm. Before taking his mother’s milk, Christ nourishes his family: an angel brings dates, and Joseph, on his way to fetch water, starts at the sound of a spring surging from the uprooted tree, while the thirsty ass cranes its neck toward the scent. Egypt lies at the distant right with its obelisk and fanciful architecture. The ruined arch and blocks of stone symbolize the fall of the pagan Roman Empire before Christianity.
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Caption for illustration:
Veronese, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1572, oil on canvas, 236 × 161 cm. The Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, bequest of John Ringling.