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Flight into Egypt

ca. 1916-1922 Henry Ossawa Tanner Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1859 Died: Paris, France 1937 oil on wood 16 7/8 x 16 7/8 in. (43.0 x 43.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins 1983.95.202 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 12A

Luce Center Quote

"Dark clouds swept the moonlit skies and it took little imagination to close one's eyes to the flight of time . . . and see in each hurrying group a 'Flight into Egypt.'" Henry Ossawa Tanner, "The Story of an Artist's Life," in World's Work, June/July 1909

Luce Center Label

Henry Ossawa Tanner's trip to the Middle East in 1897 probably inspired this scene of the flight into Egypt. The story of the Holy Family fleeing Herod's wrath was a favorite of Tanner's, who created as many as fifteen works on the theme. In this painting, Mary and the donkey are barely discernible, with the suggestion of a figure representing Joseph behind them. Moonlight illuminates the path for the family to follow. Tanner's own experience of racism in the United States, which motivated him to move to Paris, may have led him to identify with the persecuted Holy Family.


Animal - donkey

Landscape - celestial - moon

Landscape - celestial - moon

Landscape - road

Religion - New Testament - Christ

Religion - New Testament - Flight into Egypt

Religion - New Testament - Joseph

Religion - New Testament - Mary


paint - oil