Taddeo Zuccaro, The Flight into Egypt, a drawing

Italy, about AD 1557-59

The study is drawn over black chalk in pen and grey and black ink with brown wash. The main figures are heightened with white to show the fall of light.

In this traditional Christian story of the Holy Family's journey from Bethlehem to Egypt, angels are shown pulling down the branches of a tree for the Christ Child to take the fruit and eat. The drawing shows the Virgin Mary and the excited Christ Child riding on a donkey, led by the aged St Joseph.

The brawny angels are derived from Michelangelo's heroic angels in the Last Judgement (Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Rome). The focus of the drawing is however, the Holy Family in the lower half of the picture space. It is clear that Zuccaro (1529-1566) altered the forms, positions and outlines of the figures several times. The stick on which Joseph leans as he leads his family, is shown in three different positions alone. The white heightening is laid on thickly, even coarsely, particularly on the figure of St Joseph.

This drawing was made as a study for a fresco in Santa Maria dell'Orto, Rome painted by Taddeo's younger brother, Federico (1543-1609) in the late 1550s. Taddeo was one of the most brilliant of late sixteenth-century painters and draughtsmen. He was based in Rome and worked extensively for religious and secular patrons, decorating churches, chapels, palaces and villas.

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More information


J. Gere, Taddeo Zuccaro: his developmen (London Faber, 1969)

M. Royalton-Kisch, H. Chapman and S. Coppel, Old Master drawings from the M, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)

J.A Gere and P. Pouncey, Italian drawings in the Depa-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)


Height: 393.000 mm
Width: 232.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1895-9-15-655



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