The Government of Italy has agreed to the loan of Caravaggio's Rest on the Flight into Egypt, c. 1597 from the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
for one fortnight.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610), better known as "Caravaggio", is one of the greatest painters of all times, and may be termed "the founder of Baroque" due to his innovative style, combining extreme chiaroscuro, figures flickering in the dark, stark realism and dramatic diagonal compositions. Surprisingly, this was all achieved by a man who died relatively young (aged 39), considered a criminal most of his life (often attacking people with his sword and dagger), and who ended his life as a fugitive criminal, wandering between Naples, Sicily and Malta, having killed a man in Rome following a dispute over a tennis game.
This work is the largest, most challenging composition Caravaggio painted at the time. The landscape (the Sinai desert?) is fairly rare for the painter, who preferred placing his figures in taverns or dark dungeons; it makes the painting seem like a "calm, pastoral musical picnic". According to the New Testament, the Holy Family fled into Egypt having been warned that King Herod's soldiers were about to murder all newborn babes in Bethlehem, on the assumption that the prophesized King of the Jews was among them. According to a later tradition, the family stopped by a grove, where Jesus ordered the trees to bend so that Joseph could gather their fruit. Mary is seen sleeping, the baby Jesus in her arms. Joseph (on the left) serves as a human music stand for an angel playing a violin with his back to us. The donkey's eye peeks between Joseph and the angel, seeming to allude to Jesus entering Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.