Since 2010 I have been using this site to discuss my interpretations of famous Renaissance paintings including Giorgione's "Tempest" as "The Rest on the Flight into Egypt"; his "Three Ages of Man" as "The Encounter of Jesus with the Rich Young Man"; Titian's, "Sacred and Profane Love" as "The Conversion of Mary Magdalen"; Titian's "Pastoral Concert" as his "Homage to Giorgione", and Michelangelo's"Doni Tondo." The full papers can now be found at

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Giorgione and Fra Bartolomeo

Fra Bartolomeo, "Rest on the Flight into Egypt," 1499, Borghese Gallery.

Baccio della Porta, a noted Florentine artist, had been so moved by the death of Savonarola that he gave up his painting career and entered the Dominican order himself. He was given the name Fra Bartolomeo. In 1504 his superiors convinced him to take up his brushes again and become a kind of official Dominican artist in residence.

A little while later the young Raphael began his sojourn in Florence and the two unlikely personalities became friends and associates. It is generally believed that Raphael helped Fra Bartolomeo in developing his craft, but if we look at the latter’s 1499 version of the "Rest on the Flight into Egypt" now in the Borghese Gallery, we can see that Raphael could just as well have learned from the friar.

In 1508 Fra Bartolomeo was sent to Venice to do some work for the Dominican house on the isle of Murano. It would have been hard for him not to have become acquainted with the work of Giorgione, another young genius. Besides his great reputation Giorgione had just completed his spectacular frescoes on the fa├žade of the newly rebuilt Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
At the annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Venice in 2010, Alessio Assonitis presented a paper entitled “Fra Bartolomeo and San Pietro Martire at Murano.” He noted the following:

"As a friar-painter…Fra Bartolomeo was exempt from conventional pastoral duties.… His travels to the other two major centers of Italian painting were nothing but artistic sabbaticals which consented the friar to keep up-to-date with recent artistic developments....

Indeed, following his brief sojourn in Venice, Fra Bartolomeo was able to integrate elements of Bellini and Giorgione’s pictorial lexicon soberly and harmoniously….he also showed no reservations about borrowing compositional elements from Venetian artists like Carpaccio, Bellini, Giorgione and Titian."

If we look again at Fra Bartolomeo’s version of the “Rest” in the Borghese Gallery and compare it with another version done after the visit to Venice we will see a striking change.

The Borghese painting was done around 1499 and while it is often called an “Adoration” or a “Holy Family,” it is really a depiction of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt.” There are the three figures in a landscape so characteristic of “Rest” images, as well as the monumental ruins representative of the fall of the Egyptian idols as the Infant Christ entered Egypt. Artists sometimes just used rocks and rubble to depict the destruction of the idols, but Fra Bartolomeo liked to emphasize the ruins.

I would like to draw attention, however, to the figure of Joseph whose prominent position in the foreground represents his increased importance in Renaissance devotion. He is no longer a small figure off to the side or in the background. He is still portrayed as a very old man with a gray beard.

Ten years later, after the trip to Venice, Fra Bartolomeo did another version of the Rest that is now at the Getty in Los Angeles. This painting depicts the encounter of the Holy Family with the young John the Baptist on the return from Egypt. Now there are four figures in the landscape but Fra Bartolomeo still features the ruins. However, Joseph now appears to be much younger. The beard is gone and he is middle-aged. He is certainly physically capable of protecting his Family.

In my paper on Giorgione’s Tempest” I interpreted his most famous painting as “The Rest on the Flight into Egypt.” I argued that the young man in the painting is St. Joseph.

In the paper I also discussed an earlier Giorgione painting which has been mistakenly called “The Discovery of Paris.” This lost Giorgione only exists in 17th century copies but it is taken almost literally from an apocryphal account of the encounter of the Holy Family with robbers on the Flight into Egypt. In that early work Giorgione depicted Joseph as a very old graybeard. In the “Tempest,” done at the end of his short career, Giorgione chose to portray Joseph as a youthful, virile Venetian patrician.

What was going on in Venice at the beginning of the 16th century? Had artists finally caught up with the demands of religious reformers like Jean Gerson? In a study of Gerson, Brian Patrick McGuire noted that in the early 15th century the famed Chancellor of the University of Paris had called for a different artistic approach to Joseph.

"The chancellor imagined Joseph as a young man, full of energy and potency, able to take care of his wife and son by hard work, and not the broken-down, tired figure of popular imagination…."

"Gerson wanted a man who was virile and chaste, loving and affectionate, happy and fulfilled in his vocation….Such themes are expressed in greatest detail in Gerson’s Considerations on Saint Joseph, written between August and late September 1413. The text takes up more than thirty pages in the Glorieux edition and provides the basis for his later poem, the Josephina."
Brian Patrick McGuire, “Jean Gerson and the Last Medieval Reformation,”
Penn State, 2005. Pp. 236-7.

Girolamo Savonarola, another reformer interested in naturalistic depictions of sacred art, might have also played a role in this new approach to Joseph. In the paper mentioned above Alessio Assonitis referred to the work of scholars on Savonarolan influence in Venice.

"Tafuri and Scapecchi have pointed out how certain religious circles in Venice had favorably accepted the Frate’s reformational program; Leathers Kuntz went so far to claim that Savonarola’s sermons had reinvigorated the reformational zeal of the Venetian nobility and popolani….Precisely due to the Serenissima’s relative tolerance, many of Savonarola’s works were published in Venice. Quite frequent were communications between Savonarolans and Venetian presses…."

Whatever the reason, both Giorgione and Fra Bartolomeo changed their approach to St. Joseph in the first decade of the 16th century. In the next decade Paris Bordone and Lorenzo Lotto would also paint a young, virile Joseph in depictions of the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine.

Francis P. DeStefano

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Giorgione: Christ Carrying the Cross

This famous painting was originally done as an altarpiece for the small chapel of the Cross in the church of San Rocco in Venice. Although the chapel no longer exists the painting can still be seen in the famed Scuola of San Rocco.
Early documents and engravings note the presence of the painting but fail to name the painter. In the first edition of his “Lives” Giorgio Vasari noted that that this seemingly miraculous painting was by Giorgione.

“Giorgione likewise executed a picture of Christ bearing his Cross, while he is himself dragged along by a Jew. This work was subsequently placed in the church of San Rocco, where it is held in the highest veneration by many of the faithful, and even performs miracles, as is frequently seen.”

(Giorgio Vasari, ”Lives of the Most Eminent Painters,” selected, edited, and introduced by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, Volume II, NY, 1967.)

However, in his second edition Vasari’s chapter on Titian gave the painting to Titian even though he noted that many people still believed it was by Giorgione. Vasari complicated things by failing to remove the attribution to Giorgione from his life of that artist. It should be noted that Vasari’s first edition did not have an essay on Titian.

Today, most scholars and catalogs give the “Christ Carrying the Cross” to Giorgione. In addition to documents that hint at Giorgione’s authorship, stylistic grounds seem to favor him over Titian. At the 2010 meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, a well-known scholar gave an extended presentation on the results of years of research in Venetian archives in hope of resolving the question of attribution. She had to admit that the results were inconclusive.

The “Christ Carrying the Cross” appears to have been commissioned by a wealthy merchant, but it was always intended for public and not private devotion. Indeed, its reputed miraculous powers made it one of the most famous paintings in 16th century Venice.

It does not appear that Giorgione painted scenes of the Passion and Death of Christ for his private patrons. It is true that his career was prematurely cut off around the age of 33, but there might have been another reason. In a discussion of Botticelli’s depictions of the Madonna, Alessandra Galizzi Kroegel noted that images of the Madonna and Child with their subtle indications of the Passion and Death were favored.

“ it needs to be pointed out first of all that the Renaissance era saw the spread of practices of individual devotion to be carried out primarily in the home…From the theological perspective attention should then be drawn to the emergence of a new trend that…tended to identify the mystery of the Incarnation with the Redemption itself, focusing on the Passion with much less fervour than in the past: whence the growing popularity of ‘incarnational’ iconographies celebrating the word made flesh, such as pictures of the Infant Jesus in his mother’s arms…while the demand for images with Christ on the Cross, very common in the fourteenth century was drastically reduced.”

Alessandra Galizzi Kroegel, “The Figure of Mary in Botticelli’s Art.” Botticelli: from Lorenzo the Magnificent to Savonarola, 2003. (ex. cat), p. 56.

In my paper on the Tempest I have argued that the painting depicts the Madonna nursing the Infant Savior on the Flight into Egypt. The storm clouds in the background of the Tempest reflect the slaughter of the Holy Innocents by King Herod. While the Holy Family has temporarily escaped the danger, we know that the Child will return to endure His Passion and Death.
Below is the last paragraph of my paper.

In the “Tempest” Joseph stands on a plane beneath the Madonna and draws our attention to her. There "clothed with the sun" she sits on a raised earthen throne nursing her innocent Child who is destined to return to Judea and face the same fate as the Holy Innocents slaughtered by King Herod. The Madonna looks out and invites the viewer to enter the picture and follow her Son on His journey.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Giorgione: Judith

Although originally given to Raphael, scholars have for over a century agreed that the Hermitage "Judith with the Head of Holofernes" is an early work by Giorgione. Moreover, they agree that it is a ground-breaking work.

Giorgione: Judith
Hermitage, St. Petersburg
Oil transferred from wood to canvas
144 x68 cm

In 1996 Jaynie Anderson wrote: “With this small picture, Giorgione introduces the Jewish heroine of the Apocrypha to Venetian painting….” (292). Three years later Terisio Pignatti wrote that “Giorgione’s Judith with the Head of Holofernes introduces numerous innovations that make the painting fascinating, particularly in the field of iconography…” (52)

Characteristically, Giorgione avoided the use of stock or standard iconographical elements. In 2007 Wolfgang Eller noted that Giorgione’s painting contains “no optical indication of the events. There is no female servant, no tent, no besieged city, and no waiting figures in the background that illustrate the story.” (47)

All commentators seem to agree that the most striking element in the painting is the bare leg of Judith. According to Terisio Pignati, “Giorgione inserts a completely new motif in the garments which reveal the left leg of the woman.” (122) But they can find no good explanation and fall back on “eroticism” and “sensuality.” According to Wolfgang Eller,

“the raised leg makes an extensive laying bare of the female thigh possible for the painter. In Giorgione’s time, this was considered highly erotic, for a woman to show only her calves was even more daring than a bare bosom. Thus from the aspect of the observer of those times, the depicted figure is identifiable as being erotic.” (48)

It would appear, however, that in depicting the “bare thigh” Giorgione was just paying close attention to the biblical account in the Latin Vulgate, the only Bible in use at the time.

Chapter 9 of the Book of Judith gives the famous prayer of the Jewish heroine as she prepares for her encounter with the enemy tyrant. Here is verse 2 from the Jerusalem Bible.
Lord, God of my father Simeon,You armed him with a sword to take vengeance on the foreignersWho had undone a virgin’s girdle to her shame,Laid bare her thigh to her confusion, violated her womb to her dishonor… 
Judith is referring to the story of the rape of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and the sister of Simeon, from the Book of Genesis, 34: 1-3. 
“Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter by Leah, went out to visit the women of that region. Shechem, the son of Hamor the Hivite, who was ruler of that region, saw her, carried her off and raped her, and so dishonoured her.”
This incident led to the slaughter of the Hivite men after they had been tricked into undergoing circumcision.

It would appear that Giorgione used an exposed thigh to indicate a woman in danger of sexual assault. In another early work that we only have in a 17th century copy by David Teniers, Giorgione used the same motif. He exposed the thigh of the Madonna in a depiction of the apocryphal encounter with robbers on the flight into Egypt. This copy of the lost Giorgione has for centuries been mis-identified as the “Discovery of Paris,” but in my paper on the “Tempest” I have demonstrated that it should be called the “Encounter with the Robbers on the Flight into Egypt.”

Giorgione also paid close attention to another element in the biblical account. Chapter 10 of the Book of Judith gives a detailed account of Judith putting on her finery.
There she removed the sackcloth she was wearing and, taking off her widow’s dress, she washed all over, anointed herself with costly perfumes, dressed her hair, wrapped a turban around it and put on the dress she used to wear on joyful occasions when her husband Manasseh was alive. She put sandals on her feet, put on her necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, and all her jewelry, and made herself beautiful enough to catch the eye of every man who saw her.
Judith’s deed is usually seen as an heroic attempt to deliver not just herself but her people from danger. Yet during the Renaissance she was often seen as a prototype of Mary. Perhaps it was this aspect that influenced Giorgione or his patron. Judith’s prayer (9:11) sounds very similar to Mary’s famous Magnificat.
Your strength does not lie in numbers,Nor your might in violent men;Since you are the God of the humble,
The help of the oppressed,
The support of the weak,The refuge of the forsaken,The savior of the despairing.
The Book of Judith is still included in Catholic bibles today, but it has been rejected by Protestants. As far as I know it is no longer in the Hebrew canon although the name Judith still retains its popularity.


Note: According to Anderson Giorgione’s painting was originally a door panel since there is evidence of a painted over keyhole.


Anderson, Jaynie: Giorgione, 1997.

Eller, Wolfgang: Giorgione Catalog Raisonne, Petersberg, 2007.

Pignatti, Terisio and Pedrocco, Filippo: Giorgione, Rizzoli, 1999.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Giorgione Catalogs

In the past fifteen years five major Giorgione catalogs have appeared. This truly remarkable publishing phenomenon must be due not only to an increasing interest in Venice and the Venetian Renaissance, but also to the mystery surrounding Giorgione. Below find brief reviews of the five catalogs, all of them beautifully illustrated. The images are from the covers of the respective catalogs.

In addition to a brief outline of their contents, I have tried to point out their divergent views on the "Tempest" and on the David Teniers' copy of the "lost" Giorgione, usually called the "Discovery of Paris." The learning and exhaustive research of the various authors has been of great value to me, but I do admit that none of them has been able to see the "Tempest" as "The Rest on the Flight into Egypt." Moreover, when they discuss the "Discovery of Paris," , they invariably follow Marcantonio Michiel's mistaken identification of the "Discovery of Paris." For my interpretation of both paintings see my website.

Anderson, Jaynie: "Giorgione, the Painter of Poetic Brevity," Paris, 1997.

Jaynie Anderson’s study is a solo work of almost 400 pages. Seven essays by the author take up the first three quarters of the book. Anderson studies Giorgione’s “poetic style;” his biographers and connoisseurs; the results of scientific analysis of his paintings; his patrons; his imagery of women; his critical fortunes; and his work on the Fondaco dei Tedeschi.
This comprehensive catalog is broken up into accepted works; controversial attributions; copies after Giorgione; and rejected attributions. All are discussed in varying degrees.

Concerning the Tempest Anderson strongly rejected the Adam and Eve interpretation of Salvatore Settis, as well as all other previous explanations that might be connected with a “story or text.”
For her the “most convincing interpretation” of the Tempest can be found in Colonna’s “Hypnerotomachia Poliphilo.” The painting depicts the encounter of the “young hero Poliphilo” with a deity. Although Anderson does not follow Marcantonio Michiel’s identification of the “soldier and the gypsy,” she does accept his description of the Teniers copy of the so-called “Discovery of Paris.”

A very valuable feature of Anderson’s catalog is the collection of documents relating to Giorgione in the original Italian at the back of the book.

Pignatti, Terisio and Pedrocco, Filippo: "Giorgione," Rizzoli, NY, 1999.

This catalog came two years after Jaynie Anderson’s but it obviously represented a lifetime of work on the part of the two Italian authors. A little less than half the catalog is an essay on “The Life and Work of Giorgione,” by Terisio Pignatti. The author discusses the life and background of Giorgione but then devotes about 40 pages to a discussion of the attributed works.
In the second half of the book Filippo Pedrocco provides an invaluable summary of the attribution, provenance, and interpretive history of each attributed work. Especially valuable is their attempt to date the various works from early, through middle, to late career.

Although Pedrocco lists all the different interpretations of the Tempest, Pignatti concludes that there is an “undoubted presence of an underlying theme” but that the painting still “remains difficult to interpret.” Like Anderson the authors do not contest Michiel’s identification of the Teniers copy of the so-called “Discovery of Paris.”

Ferino-Pagden, Sylvia, and Nepi-Scire, Giovanna: exh. Cat. "Giorgione, Myth and Enigma," Vienna, 2004.

If I could only have one catalog in my library, my choice would be “Giorgione, Myth and Enigma,” the exhibition catalog for the groundbreaking 2004 Giorgione exhibition jointly sponsored by the Accademia in Venice and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. Both institutions contributed their Giorgione works to the exhibition, and for the first time the Tempest traveled outside of Italy for the Vienna show.

The catalog featured a number of essays by leading scholars highlighted by a brilliant essay on the Castelfranco altarpiece by Salvatore Settis. There were also four essays offering differing interpretations of the Tempest.

The 25 catalog entries were written by a group of world-class scholars including Giovanna Nepi-Scire and Sylvia Ferino-Pagden, the respective curators from the two Museums sponsoring the exhibition. In her essay on the Tempest, Nepi-Scire declined to take sides in the interpretation controversy.

This catalog is especially noteworthy for the appendix that includes three essays on the extensive scientific studies conducted in preparation for the exhibition.

Brown, David Alan, and Ferino-Pagden, Sylvia, "Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting," Washington, 2006.

Two years after the 2004 Giorgione exhibition an equally ambitious venture was jointly launched by the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the National Gallery in Washington. The resulting catalog reflected the attempt of the exhibition to cover the broad range of the Venetian Renaissance.

The catalog featured works of Giorgione along with those of Giovanni Bellini, Titian, and lesser artists like Paris Bordone and Lorenzo Lotto. In the catalog these works were arranged according to themes just as in the actual exhibition.

After four introductory essays different scholars each took a theme: Peter Humfrey “Sacred Images;” Mario Lucco “Sacred Stories;” Jaynie Anderson “Allegories and Mythologies;” Sylvia Ferino-Pagden “Pictures of Women—Pictures of Love;” and David Alan Brown, the curator of the National Gallery, “Portraits of Women.”

Of all the catalogs this one is the broadest in scope but since the Tempest was not included in the exhibition, there is no separate catalog item on Giorgione’s most famous painting.

Eller, Wolfgang: "Giorgione Catalog Raisonne," Petersberg, 2007.

Wolfgang Eller’s “Giorgione, Catalogue Raisonne,” was not associated with any exhibition. Subtitled, “Mystery Unveiled,” this solo effort obviously represents a lifetime of work on the part of this scholar.

Twelve introductory essays take up a little less than a quarter of this 200 page volume, but they are packed with information and learning. Especially valuable is his essay, “The most Significant Stylistic and Painterly Criteria for an Attribution to Giorgione.” No one looks at a painting or describes it more closely than Eller.

It appears to me that his strong point is attribution and he makes some radical departures from the usual. He gives the Pastoral concert to Giorgione, and also believes that he participated in Titian’s, “Noli Me Tangere.”

If Eller is strong on attribution and painterly criteria, I believe that his interpretations are often overly complicated. His interpretation of the Tempest is so involved that it is difficult to follow. He accepts with some puzzlement the identification of the Teniers copy of the lost Giorgione as the “Discovery of Paris.”

Finally, his catalog is extremely valuable since, like Anderson, he provides a discussion of every painting that was ever associated with Giorgione—even the false attributions. This feature alone makes this relatively inexpensive, and easily usable catalog a must for any student.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Giorgione and Patenier

Joachim Patenier: Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Prado)

The popularity of the “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” became an important factor in the development of landscape in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. To incorporate the very popular apocryphal infancy legends into their work artists, especially in the Netherlands, had to deepen and broaden their landscape background.

Depictions of the Rest by these “northern” artists found their way into the palaces of Venetian patricians. Marcantonio Michiel even noted a depiction of “Our Lady with St. Joseph in the desert,” by John Scorel of Holland in the home of Gabriele Vendramin, the owner of Giorgione's Tempest.

Joachim Patinier painted many versions of the Rest. One of the best is in the Prado. The Madonna, dressed in blue and white, sits on a rocky outcrop nursing her Child. St. Joseph is off to the left gathering food for her to eat although his pilgrim's staff and sack are featured in the foreground. Behind the Madonna is what appears to be rocky rubble but the large stone ball indicates the remains of the Egyptian idols that collapsed on the arrival of the Child into Egypt. According to Emile Male the legendary “Fall of Idols” was a commonplace in depictions of the flight into Egypt.

Northern artists like Patinier usually included episodes from the very popular apocryphal gospels in their paintings. In addition to the “Fall of Idols” Patinier depicted the legend of the “wheat or corn field” in the background.

Here is a version of the legend told by Anna Jameson in her own inimitable way.

“In many representations of the Flight into Egypt, we find in the background men sowing or cutting corn. This is an allusion to the following legend:--

When it was discovered that the Holy Family had fled from Bethlehem, Herod sent his officers in pursuit of them. And it happened that when the Holy Family had traveled some distance, they came to a field where a man was sowing wheat. And the Virgin said to the husbandman, “If any shall ask you whether we have passed this way, ye shall answer, ‘Such persons passed this way when I was sowing this corn.” For the Holy Virgin was too wise and too good to save her Son by instructing the man to tell a falsehood. But behold, a miracle! For by the power of the Infant Saviour, in the space of a single night, the seed sprung up into stalk, blade, and ear, fit for the sickle. And next morning the officers of Herod came up, and inquired of the husbandman, saying, “Have you seen an old man with a woman and a Child traveling this way?” And the man, who was reaping his wheat, in great wonder and admiration, replied “Yes.” And they asked him again, “How long is it since?” And he answered, “When I was sowing this wheat.” Then the officers of Herod turned back, and left off pursuing the Holy Family….”

Mrs. Jameson added a little aside that could serve as a reminder for scholars even today.

“By those unacquainted with the old legend, the introduction of the cornfield and reapers is supposed to be merely a decorative landscape, without any peculiar significance.

[Anna Brownell Jameson, “Legends of the Madonna, as Represented in the Fine Arts,” Boston and New York, 1885. Pp. 359-360.]

In his seminal study of Netherlandish art Max Friedlander argued that the need to include these legendary stories had an important role in the development of landscape.

“The lovers and buyers of Patenier’s pictures were not satisfied with the effect as a whole, they wanted to read in the picture, they sought in it the leisure of a walk full of varied interest or a journey of discovery. If at every turn in the road they came upon adventure, discovered figures to interpret, relationships to trace, all the more satisfied did they feel….”

In a 1975 unpublished doctoral dissertation Sheila Schwarz also pointed out that these stories created a new justification for landscape. Patenier had to expand and deepen the landscape in order to accommodate these little stories. “Then Patenir studded his landscapes with vignettes whose presence further authorizes the expansion of the setting.” [Sheila Schwartz, The Iconography of the Rest on the Flight into Egypt, New York University, Ph. D., 1975, p. 124.]

In the left background of Patenier’s painting we see the city representing Judea from where the Holy Family has fled. Notice the bridge leading out of the city. Then moving to the right we see the newly grown cornfield and the farmer encountered on the journey. In the foreground Madonna and Child have found safety and rest.

Despite obvious differences, it is not hard to notice the similarity between Patenier’s version of the Rest and Giorgione’s Tempest. In both paintings a woman nurses her child while their protector is off to the left. Patenier used rocks and rubble to depict the Fall of Idols while Giorgione used broken columns and ruins. In both paintings there is a city and a bridge in the background. Dark clouds cover Patinier's city just as in the Tempest. Notice how Patenier causes the sky to lighten and grow blue in the center and right background.

Finally, I have argued in my paper on the Tempest that Giorgione used nudity to depict the Immaculate Conception of the Madonna. Patenier dressed his nursing Madonna not in her traditional red and blue but in blue and white, colors which would later become the standard in depictions of the Immaculate Conception. In addition, Patenier illuminated the Madonna as if to suggest the woman "clothed with the sun" from the Book of Revelation.

Below find comments from Max Friedlander on Patenier and the Prado Rest.

Patenier was a landscape painter, perhaps the first Netherlander to regard himself, and to be regarded, as a landscape painter, like Albrecht Altdorfer in Germany. Therein lies his fame. Durer, who was on friendly terms with him, calls him the ‘gut Landschaftsmaler’ (the good landscape painter). How highly the specialist was valued is made abundantly clear by the fact that two of his greatest contemporaries, Quentin Massys and Joos van Cleve, collaborated with him: they painted the figures and he added the landscape….

The Rest on the Flight into Egypt in the Prado is a mature masterpiece. From the plants in the foreground, studied with loving insight and botanical accuracy, to the dusky masses of foliage in the middle ground, from the fancifully constructed Romanesque temple buildings to the blue distance, everything is scrupulously worked out, abundant and rich. The principal figure, the Madonna in a light cloak, firmly outlined but with a softly flowing line, seems a little out of keeping with the whole.

A powerful mood is emitted from this panel; though descriptive and didactic, it seems imbued with poetry.

Max Friedlander, From Van Eyck to Bruegel, London, 1956, pp. 79-81.