Monday, December 28, 2009

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

Cornelis van Haarlam, Massacre of the Holy Innocents, 1590.

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents, commemorating Herod's massacre of infants as described in Matthew 2:16-18. I just wanted to share a few artworks on the subject.

The theme seemed to appeal to late Renaissance and Baroque artists because of the treatment of violence against the innocent and the drama inherent in the tortured faces of the mothers who try to defend or mourn their slaughtered children. I remember being mesmerized by a set of polychrome figures on the theme by José Ginés in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid. The series, given the graphically Spanish title Degollación de los Inocentes ("the throat-cutting of the innocents"), got its power from the naked brutality of the slaughter and the crazed, twisted faces of the women as they tried in vain to either hide their children or fight off the soldiers -- a moment described also by Shakespeare in Henry V:

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.

After extensive googling that resulted not only in the frustration of failure to obtain results but also repeated Mozilla-crashing, I was able to to find only one figure from the series, but it should give you a feel for it:

And here are some other versions:

Guido Reni, 1611.

Peter Paul Rubens, also 1611.


lullaby said...

and somehow from this evolved the día de los inocentes pranks... "¡que te valga la inocencia!"

i just don't see the connection.

crystal said...

I was just looking at these pics too a few days ago because of that Coventry Carol. Nice choices.

crystal said...

Hi Liam,

I hope your cat is ok.

Hey, have you seen this site - <a href = " Papyrus Archive</a>?

crystal said...

Sorry -

Duke Papyrus Archive

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Liam said...

Usually I just delete spam messages, but the effort at communication is so wonderful in this case, I'm leaving it there.

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