Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi
1606-1680 | Italian
Flight into Egypt
Oil on canvas
A stunning example of 17th-century Italian artistry, this oil on canvas depicting the biblical tale of the Flight into Egypt is the work of the famed Baroque painter Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi. Renowned for his extraordinary talent as a fresco painter, Grimaldi devoted much of his career to mural painting for leading Roman families such as the Santacroce, the Pamphili, and the Borghese. In comparison to his frescos, easel paintings attributed to Grimaldi are a remarkable rarity, and most known examples are held in important public collections, including the Hermitage Museum (Saint Petersburg), J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Kunsthistorisches Museum (Vienna), and the Royal Academy of Arts (London), among others.
The present work, entitled Flight into Egypt, exemplifies his distinctive compositional style. The story was taken from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew. Fleeing from Herod's call for all infant boys to be killed, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus sought refuge in Egypt. Depicting the moment when they reach the end of their long journey, Grimaldi positioned the family in the lower left corner of his composition. The remainder of the canvas is occupied by a sweeping landscape, including a soaring rendition of a pyramid that dwarfs the Roman-esque structure beside it.
Grimaldi perfectly applies the Baroque technique of uniting the key figures in his landscape with looped lines and lively rhythms. The curves of the pathway and Grimaldi's masterful placement of figural groups and structures lead the eye on a swooping visual journey that terminates at the hazy mountain in the distance. Through this compositional technique, Grimaldi achieves a remarkable sense of depth in his epic narrative landscape.
The overall conception of the scene is characteristic of the artist, and similar works in terms of composition, include Grimaldi's Landscape with Tobias and the Archangel Raphael (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) and Tobias and the Angel (Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow).
Born in Bologna in 1606, Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi arrived in Rome around 1626. Throughout his career, he primarily devoted his attention to fresco painting, executing compositions that included sweeping landscapes for palaces throughout Italy and beyond to Paris. Among his most celebrated murals were those painted in 1640 at the Santacroce ai Catinari Palace in Rome, as well as frescos in the Villa Pamphilj and the Muti-Papazzurri Palace. Between 1649 and 1651, Grimaldi traveled to Paris, where he painted in the residence of Cardinal Mazarin and the Palais du Louvre.
Canvas: 19 3/4" high x 26 1/8" wide
Frame: 26 1/2" high x 33" wide