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The Massacre of the Innocents depicts the episode of the biblical Massacre of the Innocents of Bethlehem, as related in the Gospel of Matthew. Rubens put the drama outside Herod's palace. Herod was the king who
ordered the killing of all young male children in Bethlehem.
Three groups can be distinguished. In the center a woman draws the eye by holding a blood stained cloth over her head. Her face shows despair. In the groups to the left and right women try to stop the soldiers - to no avail.
It is widely regarded as a demonstration of the artist's learnings from his time spent in Italy between 1600 and 1608, where he observed first-hand the works of Italian Baroque painters like Caravaggio. These influences are seen in this painting through the sheer drama and emotive dynamism of the scene, as well as the rich colour.