Crespi depicted the Flight into Egypt
on several occasions, but the Holy Family pursued by robbers is an unusual variation on the story that comes from the apocryphal Infancy of Jesus
gospel. The active composition and bright touches of blue and red against the dark forest setting convey fear. This composition is nearly identical to that of a larger version dated 1740-45, last seen in 1995 at Gallerie Lingenauer, Düsseldorf.1
The present lot may have functioned as a modello
or a ricordi
for the larger painting, although Crespi pushed the figural groups closer together here. The kneeling man at lower left also appears in Christ Mocked
(1735-40) at the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna.2
1. See A. Emiliani & A.B. Rave (eds.), Giuseppe Maria Crespi 1665-1747, exhibition catalogue, Bologna 1990, pp. 238-239; M.P. Merriman, Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Milan 1980, p. 243, no. 32.
2. M.P. Merriman (op. cit.), pp. 251-2, no. 54.