Peter Paul Rubens 1577 – 1640

Massacre of the Innocents

oil on panel (142 × 182 cm) — c. 1610 Museum Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Peter Paul Rubens biography

This work is linked to Matthew 2:16

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This painting by Rubens was erroneously attributed to one of his assistants in 1787. It wasn't until 2001 that an expert judged it to be a true Rubens.

It was sold at an auction in London in 2002 for £49.5 million (then US $86 million or 77 million euro). The buyer was revealed to be the Canadian newspaper baron Kenneth Thomson. Thomson donated the work (and many others) to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto.

The work shows the massacre ordered by king Herod. He had been told by the Three Wise Men that a King of the Jews had been born, and decided to prevent him from becoming a rival. Mary, Joseph and their new born child were already on their way to Egypt.

Rubens was clearly influenced by Italian Baroque masters such as Caravaggio: rich color, dramatic movements, and the use of chiaroscuro.

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