A Thousand Words

Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Flight into Egypt

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

The Flight into Egypt was probably Henry Ossawa Tanner's favorite Bible story. He painted at least four versions during his long career, usually depicting the Holy Family fleeing across open country. This version, his last, depicts an entirely different moment in the story. In this painting, the main characters are huddled against a wall, Mary and the Child on a donkey and Joseph behind them in the shadows. They are hemmed in; in front of them is a door, but it is shut and the window is barred. Behind them is an open arch showing just the suggestion of a . . .

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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.


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