PARIS - There are few history paintings in the Louis Grandchamp des Raux collection, which makes The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Noël Hallé, one of the greatest genre painters during the reign of Louis XV, commendable on two counts. Joseph and his family enjoy a moment of respite on their life-saving flight from the massacre of the innocents ordered by Herod. This oil on canvas in a classic triangular composition depicts the deep love between each of the figures with disarming subtlety. Joseph dominates the scene with his protective frame, watching over his family with a heart-warming gaze. His wrinkled brow is all that betrays his heavy responsibility. The Virgin, sitting comfortably with her ankles casually crossed, gives the baby her breast, gazing at him with motherly love. The trusting, carefree child squeezes the breast with his plump fingers, wriggling his chubby little feet, squirming with delight. To magnify the goddess-mother, Hallé gave her his wife’s features, illustrating his desire to convey all of the scene’s humanity while giving it a universal dimension. The supposedly inaccessible Holy Family, often depicted in a way that had become classic, turns into an ordinary family – perhaps the artist’s – communing with each other in a moment of serene tenderness. A delicate chiaroscuro wraps the figures, who are immersed in a soothing parenthesis outside time in which even the animal carrying them on this perilous journey seems to participate. More than a historic scene, it offers us a painter’s loving gaze.

Noël Hallé, The Rest on the Flight into Egypt. Estimate €40,000–60,000.

Sotheby’s France – Louis Grandchamp des Raux Collection
In association with Artcurial
Auction on Thursday 26 March at 6 p.m. at Sotheby’s


Lucia Mestre is Cataloguer, Old Paintings and Drawings Department at Sotheby’s France