The Frick Collection
Peter Paul Rubens, The Holy Women at the Sepulchre Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, The Birth of Saint John the Baptist Francisco de Zurbarán, Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte), The Flight into Egypt Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, called Guercino, Aldrovandi Dog
The West Gallery of The Frick Collection
Special Exhibition

Jacopo Bassano
The Flight into Egypt
Podcast | Video

Peter Paul Rubens
The Holy Women at the Sepulchre
Podcast | Video

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri called Guercino
Aldrovandi Dog
Podcast | Video

Francisco de Zurbarán
Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose

Masterpieces of European Painting from the Norton Simon Museum
February 10 through May 10, 2009


Jacopo Bassano (born Jacopo da Ponte; 1510–1592), The Flight into Egypt, c. 1544–45, oil on canvas, Norton Simon Art Foundation

Podcast Available Podcast available by Assistant Curator Margaret Iacono.

In Jacopo Bassano’s majestic Flight into Egypt, Joseph flees Bethlehem with Mary and Jesus, having been warned by an angel in a dream of Herod’s call for the murder of all boys under the age of two. The artist’s representation of c. 1544–45 departs significantly from the traditional account, which appears in the Gospel of Matthew (2:12–23) and in New Testament apocrypha such as the Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew and the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy. Instead of making a nocturnal exodus through an arid landscape, Bassano’s figures escape across a sunlit, bountiful countryside, accompanied by an angel with fanciful downy wings. Absent from the biblical account, the angel is most likely the prophetic messenger of Joseph’s dream. He points to the road ahead and its promise of safety and to a nascent fig branch growing from a dead stump (a sign of rebirth, alluding to the Resurrection). On the far left, a humbly dressed man kneels to release three roosters from a basket. Another figure, clothed in a green tunic and bright red hose, drains the last drops from a flask. Almost hidden behind the donkey and Joseph is a man depicted with the characteristic bagpipe and staff of a shepherd. The presence of these three figures — all missing from the canonical account — has led scholars to interpret The Flight into Egypt as a commentary on the pilgrimage of the soul. The man who releases the cocks is symbolic of the repentant sinner — a reference to Saint Peter, who denied Christ three times “before the cock crowed” but redeemed himself through his martyrdom. In contrast, the shepherd is more intent on his earthly labors than on witnessing the divine spectacle. Likewise, the greedily drinking soldier, carelessly leaning on his pike, is on the path of the damned: he masquerades as a pilgrim following the sacred procession but is in truth more concerned with his drink than with the holy family’s safe passage.

Simon’s purchase of the Flight was considered near miraculous by the Benedictine monks who owned it. Put up for sale with the hope of initiating a building campaign for Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire, the work was acquired by Simon in 1969 from Christie’s, London, for $655,118 — almost ten times the estimated auction price.

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. It contains a comprehensive essay on Norton Simon’s collection by Sara Campbell, Senior Curator at the Norton Simon Museum, as well as detailed entries by Margaret Iacono on the five paintings on loan to the Frick. It is available online from the Museum Shop.

Masterpieces of European Painting from the Norton Simon Museum is organized by Colin B. Bailey, Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator of The Frick Collection, and Carol Togneri, Chief Curator of the Norton Simon Museum, with the assistance of Margaret Iacono, Assistant Curator of The Frick Collection.

Principal funding for the exhibition is provided by Melvin R. Seiden in honor of Colin B. Bailey. Major corporate support is provided by Fiduciary Trust Company International. Additional support is generously provided by the Thaw Charitable Trust, Mr. and Mrs. John P. Birkelund, and an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.