In around 20 impressive 17th and 18th century printed works on paper, this 'cabinet exhibition’ shows images of a family on the run. The family’s story is described in the Bible: After the birth of Jesus, an angel warns Joseph of King Herod’s intention to kill the infant. Joseph flees with Mary and the Baby Jesus to Egypt, escaping the king’s henchmen. Today, over 2000 years later, images of this refugee family who leave everything behind in order to save their lives, are more relevant than ever.
Regardless of the harsh reality, the family’s flight becomes a theme in art. Prints exploring the “flight into Egypt” move beyond hardship, danger, and plight, emphasizing the motif’s aesthetic and creative aspects. In Claude Lorrain’s illustrations, the refugees move through a vast, solitary landscape that unfolds amidst bright sunlight and deep shadows.
Sébastien Bourdon diffused the flight, creating a narrative sequence of images, revealing the variety of scenes and motifs this theme holds. Inspired by this, Giandomenico Tiepolo created his famous variations on the subject. His “Idee pittoresche sopra la fuga in Egitto” (Pictorial ideas on the flight into Egypt) is one of the most significant series of 18th century printmaking. Here the flight is transformed into a virtuosic journey of the creative spirit captured on paper. Like the different pitches in a musical fugue (derived from fuga – flight), the etching’s lively black-and-white colouring revisits and revives the theme.
With all the uncertainties that come with “itinerancy”, at its core the “flight into Egypt” theme illustrates an aspect of travel. It is therefore presented as a foretaste of the summer exhibition “We’re off then. Travel Pictures from Albrecht Dürer to Olafur Elíasson of the Kupferstichkabinett”, on view at the Kupferstichkabinett from March 18 until September 25, 2016.
A 'cabinet exhibition’ presented by the Kupferstichkabinett at the Gemäldegalerie.
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