Friday, December 25, 2009

Return of the Holy Family from Egypt

Title: Return of the Holy Family from Egypt

Artist: Jacob Jordaens

Medium: Oil on oak

Size: 63 x 50 cm

Date: c. 1616

Location: Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

As recorded in Matthew 2:19-23, after Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared again in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

Every unjust empire in history has ultimately fallen, but God's church continues to endure. To oppressed Christians, whether persecuted for their faith or repressed for other unjust reasons, this reminder of the oppressors' mortality is a reminder that all trials are temporary and our loving Father remains in control. The angelic orders to return to the land of Israel because those seeking the child's life were dead explicitly recall Exodus 4:19-20. Jewish readers would have immediately recognized the allusion: like Moses, Jesus had outlived his persecutor and would lead his people to salvation.

Jacob Jordaens (May 19, 1593 - October 18, 1678), was one of three Flemish Baroque painters, along with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, to bring prestige to the Antwerp school of painting. Like Rubens, he studied under Adam van Noort, who was his only teacher. During this time Jordaens lived in Van Noort's house and became very close to the rest of the family. After several years, in 1616, he married his teacher's eldest daughter, Anna Catharina van Noort, with whom he had three children.

This painting, of a happy family’s triumphant return, is dated from the same year as his own marriage, and shows the Antwerp master working with a new freedom of color and brushwork.

... And, as it states in Luke 2:40 “the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.”


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