The present lot sits well within a tradition of painting established by Joachim Patinir (c. 1480-1524) in Antwerp in the early sixteenth century. Using the pretext of a biblical narrative, Patinir created vast and richly detailed panoramas, inventing a genre that has been called the Weltlandschaften or ‘world landscape’. Patinir frequently chose the subject of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt and our painting has clearly been inspired by his masterpieces in the Museo del Prado, Madrid and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
The Virgin and Child are seated on a small hill in the centre foreground and Joseph walks towards them holding a water jug in one hand, walking stick in the other, his cape blowing in the wind. In front of them lies a half opened travel chest filled with their few belongings. They rest by the main road, outside a small village where they just passed through. A small stream passes through the village, a wooden plank lies across it to allow an easier passage. A figure is standing on this plank and converses with other villagers by the inn and a dog howls in the street. Just in front of the church, a small figure sits on a roof, which he appears to be mending. Strongly following in the tradition of Patinir and Lucas Gassel, to whom the panel had been traditionally been given, as well as The Master of the Female Half-Lengths, the artist of the present lot has depicted biblical episodes in the background that relate to the Flight into Egypt. The Miracle of the Wheatfield can be seen in the centre background and the Massacre of the Innocents high on a hill further into the distance.
A similar composition, datable to circa 1530, was sold in these rooms on 2 December 2014, lot 8. This indicates the popularity of this composition in Antwerp. The figures in the foreground were probably executed by a different hand, which was common practice in the 16th century. The Virgin and Child relate closely to the group in Joos van Cleve’s picture of the same subject of circa 1516-18, now in the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels.