The Rest on the Flight to Egypt
Gerard David (c. 1460-1523) was an artist in the city of Bruges, Belgium. He is regarded by art historians as being progressive for the time in his innovative use of symbolism and sensitive treatment of landscape.
The background blues in "The Rest on the Flight to Egypt" (c. 1520) were created by lead white tinted with azurite. The same cool blues appear off in the distance of "Landscape with the Rest on the Flight into Egypt" (1652) by Pierre Patel (c. 1605-1676) in the collection of the National Gallery, London. In early modern Northern Europe where oil painting was first developed in its modern form, the valuable material lapis lazuli was rather less used than it was in the South. The new technique of the production of colours had the advantage of coating each particle in a film of oil which insulated it against chemical reaction with their pigments, reducing the risk of changes in their colour.
The ground in "The Rest on the Flight to Egypt" is planted with broad-leaf plaintain, mint, lanceolate plaintain, strawberry in flower and fruit, fern and sweet violet. Fern considered to be a protection against evil, and the plants and fruit to be found in the composition have religious symbolism common to the early modern Europe. The 19th century would see a revival in interest in the emblematic meaning of flowers. In 15th and 16th century Flanders the use of flowers in the border decoration of manuscripts had become increasingly realistic. In the "Flight into Egypt" of the Hastings Hours (School of the Master of Burgundy) the symbolism is extended to pinks, peas, dog roses irises, speedwell and the flowers with butterflies, moths, flies and a damsel fly. In the works of the Van Eycks and other Flemish painters there appear individual flowering plants fully observed and painted in loving detail. At least fourteen easy to identify species are shown in the meadow of the "Adoration of the Lamb" in the Ghent altarpiece, while in Jan van Eyck's "Rolin Madonna" flowers appearing as in a window-box beneath the opening of the central arch are treated with the same detailed care as the landscape behind.