Rest on the Flight into Egypt
- Baltasar de Vargas Figueroa
- Work Locations: Bogota, Colombia, Colombia
- Attributed to
- Attributed to Gaspar de Figueroa
- Attributed to Figueroa Workshop
The Figueroa were an important family dynasty of painters active in the 1600s in and near Santa Fe de Bogotá, the capital city of the realm of Nueva Granada (present-day Colombia and Venezuela) in the Spanish-ruled viceroyalty of Peru. The renowned workshop was founded by Baltasar de Figueroa the Elder (d. about 1630), who was recorded as working in Bogotá and Turmequé during the first third of the 1600s. Baltasar’s son Gaspar de Figueroa (d. 1658) continued the family painting tradition, and in turn was father to the painters Baltasar (d. 1667) and Nicolás de Vargas Figueroa (d. 1667). The style of the Figueroa workshop is similar to painting from early seventeenth-century Andalusia, in that it demonstrates a reliance on naturalism, chiaroscuro (contrasts of light and dark), and earthy tones. Although little is known about the family’s origins, it may be that the eldest Figueroa immigrated to the New World from Seville, Spain. With nearly one-hundred years of uninterrupted activity, the Figueroa workshop greatly influenced painting traditions across the region. It also helped give rise to the artist now known as the most famous painter of Spanish colonial-era Colombia, Gregorio Vásquez de Arce y Ceballos (1638-1711), who first worked as an assistant in the Figueroa workshop.
Likely painted by either Baltasar de Vargas Figueroa or his father Gaspar de Figueroa, this large painting is typical of the workshop’s style. Loosely based on several sixteenth-century Flemish and Italian prints, the painting illustrates a quiet moment of the Holy Family at rest during their flight into Egypt. As the Virgin Mary nurses the Christ child, Saint Joseph offers her a fruit, picked perhaps from the tree behind him. The shadows and darker tones along the perimeter of the canvas contrast with the soft light falling on the face of the Virgin and Christ child and draw the viewer’s attention to the tender moment depicted between mother and son. The painter’s masterful brushwork is evident throughout the painting, such as in the still life elements of the sewing basket at lower right.
--Sabena Kull, 2017-18 Mayer Fellow for Spanish Colonial Art