Sunday, October 16, 2016

Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1880)

Luc Olivier Merson: Rest on the Flight into Egypt

Emptiness resounds throughout Luc Olivier Merson’s oil painting Le Repos en Egypte. A desert vastness stretches to the horizon; the night sky fills the immensity of the horizontal picture plane. Positioned not centrally but almost to the very left of the canvas, the sphinx amplifies the sense of desolation which is iterated by the sand-swamped pedestal on the stone plateau.

In the depths of the desert night, everyone is sleeping. Between the paws of the sphinx lies a veiled woman, a child nestling in her arms. At her feet is a man in slumber - wrapped in blankets, spread out on the sand. Even the smoke from the extinguished fire rises sleepily upwards like a final breath, while the donkey’s pose is one of languor - one hind leg is slightly bent, and his head is low. The saddle rests on the ground, and the long day’s journey is over. The Holy Family has found a place to rest on its journey into Egypt. [Liesbeth Grotenhuis, “Lying in the arms…: the origins and reception of Luc Olivier Merson’s ‘The rest on the flight to Egypt’]

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