Great Hours of Anne of Brittany

Great Hours of Anne of Brittany The flight into Egypt, f. 76v


The flight into Egypt, f. 76v

The first rays of dawn begin to light up the rocky landscape through which Herod’s soldiers are already riding on their mission to slaughter all the boys under one year of age. The Holy Family escapes into Egypt to save Jesus. However, the faces of the three figures, including that of the ass bearing the Virgin and Child, convey a very moving sweetness and gentleness. The Child plays with an apple, a round fruit that possibly symbolises his universal reign.
This painting reveals Jean Bourdichon’s masterly talent. The composition, with the Virgin and the Child on her lap in the foreground and the rocky mountains in the background, is reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks.
Master Bourdichon highlights the folds in the Virgin’s cloak with his unmistakable touches of gold.
This scene also features the slaughter of the innocents and, in the middle distance, a representation of the late-medieval legend of the “Wheat harvest miracle” so popular in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Flemish painting.
According to this legend, Mary asked a farmer to tell the soldiers chasing them that he had seen a family go by whilst he was sowing the wheat. The field of wheat then began to grow until it was tall enough to hide the fugitives. As a result, the soldiers gave up the chase after speaking to the farmer, reckoning that the fugitives must have crossed the field a long time ago because the wheat was so tall.

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