Flight into Egypt

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.

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
Flight into Egypt
ca. 1916-1922
Not on view
16 7816 78 in. (43.043.0 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins

Mediums Description
oil on wood
  • Religion – New Testament – Christ
  • Religion – New Testament – Mary
  • Religion – New Testament – Flight into Egypt
  • Landscape – road
  • Religion – New Testament – Joseph
  • Animal – donkey
  • Landscape – celestial – moon
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More from artist

More Artworks from the Collection