This sculpture depicts the holy family during a rest in the Flight into Egypt. The flight occurred after the departure of the wise men from Bethlehem. The Gospel text referring to the flight is brief: an angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” The slaughter of the innocent ensues, but the holy family by then is on the road. That is all that is known of the incident. To reach Egypt, the family would have had to cross at least a few hundred miles through rough terrain. The event has inspired hundreds of major paintings and sculptures. In Renaissance paintings, the holy family is usually extremely well-dressed and seems to be having a picnic, sometimes attended by angels with musical instruments. The Middle Ages were more realistic: sculptors like the great Gislebertus of Autun showed Joseph, mouth open, huffing, pulling along a small donkey that carries a weary Mary and her baby. The scantness of facts gives room for imagination: I imagined that somewhere in the long trek, someone, after talking to Joseph and Mary, would have liked them well enough to offer them a place to stay for a night in a wayside house. So the holy family is here at rest, after days of ordeal, in a typical Egyptian house, made of mud bricks, Mary upstairs with the baby, Joseph downstairs thanking the donkey who has carried his wife and child over the hard landscape day after day. In a way, the piece is about all families: they have rough times, but they have times when they get out of the storm and into safe harbor, and then regroup and go on.
Hand sculpted by American artist Hank Schlau and hand painted by his wife, Karen Schlau. Made of a resilient architectural material that is suitable for indoors or outdoors.
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