Hermann Kaulbach (1846-1909), Ruhe auf de Flucht nach Ägypten (Rest on the Flight to Egypt), no date, oil on canvas, 75 1/2 x 59 1/2. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by Diane Clark Husein, 2019.
While the New Testament mentions little about Mary, Joseph, and the young Jesus’ journey to Egypt, legends arose through the centuries to enrich the narrative. The Rest on the Flight into Egypt became a popular theme, envisioning the weary family receiving respite and sustenance during their long journey.
Kaulbach’s depiction of this imagined event merges realist precision with a poetic sense of devotion. The family travels under the cover of night in the harsh desert. Mary holds the sleeping Christ child close to her breast; His radiant light illuminating their path. Two children, reflecting the 19th-century interest in Egyptian culture and peoples, offer much-needed water to the wearied mother with evident awe and adoration. Joseph, their devoted mortal guardian, tenderly watches their offering.