Valerio Castello

Massacre of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents
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Author: Valerio Castello
Painting, Oil on canvas, 200x257 cm
Origin: Italy, 1656-1658

The Gospels relate how the Magi told the Jewish King Herod of the birth of a child in Bethlehem who would be King of the Jews. Herod, fearful for his throne, ordered the massacre in Bethlehem and the surrounding area of all children under two years old . The subject of the massacre of the innocents, popular in the medieval period, began once more to attract the attention of artists in the 17th century. The dramatic nature of the event and the opportunities it provided to create a complex composition filled with wild movement was ideal for Baroque art. In Castello's painting, the events unfold against a background of Classical architecture. We see only fragments of the architecture, creating the impression that the crowd of frightened women fleeing to save their children and the enraged soldiers rushing after them are hemmed in on all sides, caught in the narrow streets of a city. Running, falling, shielding their children with their bodies, lying prostrate, the figures are now caught in the light, now deep in shadow. Some figures seem to be cut off by the frame, as if this is just a small corner of some vast and awful event, which continues well beyond the borders of that frame.

Style: Baroque
Source of entry: Collection of Count von Bruhl, Dresden, 1769
School: Genoese
Theme: The Bible and Christianity

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