The painting is mentioned with an attribution to Caroselli in the inventory of the collection of Cardinal Flavio Chigi, which was drawn up in 1693. The work remained in Palazzo Chigi even after 1918, when the building and the collection of works of art it contained were purchased by the Italian State. It was published by Ottani Cavina in 1965, but it reached the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Palazzo Barberini only in 1994 upon special request by the Commissione per la Ricognizione Patrimoniale, which was set up to retrieve works of art owned by the State and used as interior decoration in public offices and institutions.
The attribution to Angelo Caroselli in the late 17th-century inventory was verified after restoration, which clearly revealed the “AC” monogram on the saddle of the donkey at the left. As for the subject, the original inventory described it as a “landscape with four figures — one is the Madonna, seated, with the Child in her arms and a straw hat on her head talking with a woman, and some sheep”, thus making no explicit reference to a rest on the flight into Egypt. It is in fact true that the scene does not take up the traditional imagery of the evangelical event, since it also contains details and figures, some of which are taken from the apocrypha, and from the “Pseudo Matthew” in particular. The woman kneeling at the centre of the picture is shown offering the Child some cherries, a fruit symbolising the reward for virtue, and alluding to paradise. The apocrypha tells of the presence of Salome, Jesus’ nurse, and the woman in the painting, even though still young, may indeed be her. At the left of the central scene, in the middle ground, Joseph is being helped by an angel to gather some fruit in his cloak. The detail, like the stream at the foot of the painting which leads off to the sheep drinking from it, alludes to the tale of the “Pseudo Matthew”, describing the miracle of the palm (the leaves of which symbolise martyrdom) which, in the presence of Jesus, bends down to offer its dates to the Family during their rest, while a spring gushes forth from the foot of the trunk (Vodret 1996, pp. 130–34).