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The Massacre of the Innocents (after Pieter Bruegel the elder)

possibly Pieter Brueghel the younger (Brussels 1564 - Antwerp 1638)

Category

Art / Oil paintings

Date

1600 - 1699

Materials

Oil on panel (oak)

Measurements

630 x 845 x 80 mm

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Collection

Upton House, Warwickshire (Accredited Museum)

On show at

Upton House, Midlands, National Trust

NT 446750

Caption

The scene depicts the New Testament event, when King Herod – learning of the birth of Christ, King of the Jews – orders the wholesale slaughter of infants in Bethlehem. The Holy Family had been warned by an angel, and had fled to Egypt. Brueghel has represented the scene as a contemporary event. The massacre is perpetrated in a broad village street filled with groups of soldiers and villagers. The prime version of this picture is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Brueghel had copied this format from Pieter Bruegel the Elder, whose own version is now in the Royal Collection. The unique detail of the terrified child fleeing from the brutal soldiery breaking down doors at the far right distinguishes this picture from the many copies.

Summary

Oil painting on oak panel, The Massacre of the Innocents (after Bruegel the Elder). On the building at the right of the picture is a crown surmounting a monogram WAKR which indicates a previous owner, Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg (1711-1794). The biblical scene is represented as a contemporary event. The massacre is perpetrated in a broad village street filled with groups of soldiers and villagers; a troop of cavalry is drawn up in the background.

Provenance

Collection of Wenzel Anton, Fürst Kaunitz (1711-1794), Staatskanzler of the Empress Maria Theresia; posthumous sale of part of this by Artaria & Co., Vienna, 13 March ff. 1820, lot 25 (see Theodor v. Frimmel, 'Mittheilungen aus den Gemäldesammlungen von Alt-Wien: VI: Die Galerie des Fürsten Wenzel Anton Kaunitz', Berichte und Mittheilungen des Alterthums-Vereines zu Wien, vol. XXXI (1895), p.34); the date of acquisition by Lord Bearsted is unrecorded, but the painting was in his collection by 1923;given with Upton House to the National Trust by Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearsted (1882 – 1948), in 1948, shortly before his death

Credit line

Upton House, The Bearsted Collection (National Trust)

Makers and roles

possibly Pieter Brueghel the younger (Brussels 1564 - Antwerp 1638), artist after Pieter Bruegel the elder (Bruegel 1528 - Brussels 1569) , artist

Exhibition history

New Light on Old Masters, Squash Court Gallery, 2013

References

Gore 1964 F. St John Gore, Upton House, The Bearsted Collection: Pictures National Trust, 1964, p. 46, no. 149

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