Two fine 17thC European oils were recently acquired by the Seattle Art Museum thanks to local collector and SAM trustee Barney A. Ebsworth, the museum announced Tuesday (Dec. 20). The paintings are sure to open the eyes and hearts of visitors who come downtown during the holiday season.
In Philippe de Champaigne’s (French, 1602-74) The Visitation, Elizabeth, pregnant with the son who will grow up to be John the Baptist, warmly embraces her pregnant cousin Mary. The Gospel of Luke says that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, “the infant leaped in her womb.” Years later the adult John will baptize the man Jesus, according to Gospel stories. In the 1643 painting, Mary’s graceful cloak drapes her figure in her signature color, blue, and the rose-and-ivory faces and hands of the affectionate women gleam against a sombre background.
A sombre chapter soon to open in the Holy Family's story, according to Gospel narratives, would be the need to escape King Herod's bloody decree that all male infants must be slaughtered. The Flight into Egypt (late 1630s), by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), a painter of Spain’s Golden Age, depicts Mary in a big straw hat riding a winsome donkey, both placidly listening to a voluble Joseph as he walks alongside. Oblivious to the storm clouds overhead, a robust, barefoot toddler Jesus gazes at the viewer from the safety of his mother’s lap with a knowing yet open and innocent expression.
SAM will display both paintings for the first time starting Wednesday (Dec. 21) in the European baroque galleries.
And while you’re in the museum, don't miss the opportunity to walk through Do Ho Suh’s fabulous gateway into the special SAM exhibition that will stay open barely two weeks more, “Luminous: The Art of Asia.”
If you go: Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave. Open Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday-Friday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Suggested admission: $15 adults; $12 seniors & military; $9 students and teens 13-17; free for children 12 and under. Free days: First Thursdays for all; First Fridays for seniors; Second Fridays for teens (13-19).