Rest on the Flight into Egypt
1737, oil, canvas, 129 x 77,5 cm
signed and dated lower right: Martino Altomonte / Pinx. Ao. 1737.
NG S 1939, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The Holy Family is resting on the flight into Egypt, which is indicated by the donkey grazing in the bottom left corner, the palms and the pyramid. In the upper part of the painting the scene is completed by God the Father and the Holy Ghost, so that little Jesus is also part of the portrayal of the Holy Trinity, which was thus depicted simultaneously as a heavenly and earthly Trinity (Himmlische und irdische Dreifaltigkeit). We should also note Jesus’ outstretched arms, symbolically indicating the crucifixion. With some differences, this is a summary of the composition of the enormous altarpiece (app. 7 x 3 m), which Altomonte painted between 1723 and 1724 for the high altar of the church of the Carmelites (Karmeliterkirche) in Linz. This painting, signed and dated 1724, has been preserved, if in bad condition; a sketch for it is kept in the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum in Linz (oil on canvas, 126 x 71 cm, see Katalog der oberösterreichischen Landesbildergalerie in Linz, Linz 1929, p. 45, Cat. No. 123). There are differences in almost all elements of the composition between our painting and the sketch in Linz.
As regards the altarpiece in Linz, see H. Aurenhammer: Martino Altomonte, Vienna-Munich 1965, pp. 48 and 141, Cat. No. 134 and 135, Fig. 39.
Restored: 1952, ZSV, Ljubljana.
Provenance: Narodni muzej, Ljubljana, Inv. No. VIII-17; exhibited in the museum on the island on Lake Bled between 1952 and 1969; Narodna galerija, Ljubljana. – Dr. Ivan Komelj mentioned on 16 Jan. 1984 that the painting probably came from one of the churches in Ljubljana: the church of the Sacred Heart or St. Joseph; in 1996 Dr. Marijan Zadnikar wrote from memory that when the works of art were taken from the confiscated church of St. Joseph in Ljubljana there were also two paintings by Altomonte, which were taken into safekeeping by the ZSV: “If I remember correctly, it is after all almost 50 years ago, we handed both of them over to the Narodni muzej and they were later transferred to the island on Lake Bled...” (cf. Marijan Zadnikar, ‘Kako se je ohranil Plečnikov oltar pri sv. Jožefu?’[‘How was Plečnik’s altar in St. Joseph’s preserved?’]), Delo, XXXVIII, No. 78, 3 April 1996, p. 8.
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 74; 1983, Ljubljana, No. 58; 1985, Belgrade, No. 33.
Lit.: Cevc 1960, p. 33, Cat. No. 74; Aurenhammer 1965, pp. 67, 154, Cat. No. 229 (undated, ca. 1741); Zeri [& Rozman], 1983, pp. 139–140, Cat. and Fig. No. 58.