Menu Login Ticket basket   Search

The Return of the Holy Family from Egypt

This painting appears to depict the return of the Holy Family from Egypt, as told in the New Testament of the Bible (Matthew 2:21). The French painter Nicholas Poussin (1594-1665) shows Mary, Joseph and Jesus readying themselves to return from Egypt to their hometown of Nazareth, in Israel. The pyramid and obelisk on the far bank are intended to evoke Egypt. The Holy Family had originally fled there in search of safety after word spread of King Herod’s plan to execute all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem in search of the Christ Child. 

Poussin was regarded as the leading painter of the classical French Baroque, a style popular during the seventeenth century. Baroque was originally used as a derogatory term - originating from the Portuguese term barroco, meaning 'a flawed pearl' - and was used to describe art, music, and architecture that was bizarre, excessive, overly complex, or inharmonious. However, Poussin is celebrated for the delicate formal harmony of his works and the subtlety of his colouring.

Currently on display

Nicolas Poussin
Gallery 11
117.8 x 99.4 cm
Oil on canvas
Bourgeois Bequest, 1811
Accession number