This is the only known version of this composition by Coecke van Aelst. The subject was one that he treated on numerous occasions, and was extremely popular amongst his contemporaries, probably reflecting demand amongst collectors for its decorative properties. The present type is unusual in the prominence given to the angels picking fruit from a tree, a conflation of two elements in the story of the Rest from the apocryphal Gospel of the Pseudo-Matthew from which much of the iconography of the Flight into Egypt derived: first, resting on their journey, Christ commanded the branches of a palm tree to lower themselves so that the Holy Family could reach the dates on its high branches; and second, in recognition of that, Christ commanded an angel to take a branch from the tree to be planted in heaven.
As noted by Marlier, loc. cit. (whose illustration of the picture slightly crops the image on all sides, and who gives slightly reduced measurements of 43 x 29 cm.; the pictures seem certainly to be the same however, and the discrepanices are presumably due to a frame covering the edges of the picture when in the de Zuttere collection), the picture reveals the enduring influence of Coecke's first father-in-law and supposed teacher, Jan Mertens van Dornicke: elements of the composition recalling the latter's Adoration triptychs that were copied by Coecke in numerous examples. In addition, however, Marlier observed that the introduction of the raised plane on which the Virgin and Child sit with the angels picking fruit behind them derives from Van Orley, whom Van Mander recorded as being Coecke's master. Van Orley is also the source of the Christ Child, turned around and reaching up to His mother: for example in the Rest on the Flight into Egypt by the latter in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
These derivations are particularly interesting for art historians' understanding of Coecke's early career, shedding light as it does on the primacy of his two main influences: as noted by Marlier, the fact that these additional motifs from Van Orley's oeuvre appear for the first time in paintings dating from after Coecke's early Mertens-based altarpieces, strongly suggest that he must (as is now generally accepted) have familiarised himself with Mertens' work before that of Van Orley, rather than the other way around as had previously been believed.