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François-Joseph Navez | The Massacre of the Innocents, 1824

"The massacre of the innocents' was created in 1824 by Belgian painter François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869) in Neoclassicism style.
The painting is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"The Massacre of the Innocents" is a story from the life of Christ.
As recounted in the Gospel of Matthew (2:16-18), Herod the Great, King of Judea, ordered the slaughter of all boys under the age of two in and near the town of Bethlehem.
Herod’s larger aim was to kill the infant Jesus, who had been heralded as King of the Jews.

François-Joseph Navez | The Massacre of the Innocents, 1824 | Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Navez’s painting, this violence transpires in the distance, at the upper left corner of the composition, rendered in a sketch-like manner in the townscape glimpsed through the gap in the wall that shields the principal figures from Herod’s forces.
The cramped foreground space is filled by a tight cluster of five lifesize figures, interwoven and compressed into shallow relief, with light falling from the left.
The bereft mother at the center holds her mortally wounded son in a position echoing a Pietà or Lamentation of Christ, common Christian devotional subjects.

A girl, having washed his wound with her right hand in an unflinchingly tender act of mercy, touches the cut with her left, an act of purification that implies saintliness.
Her gesture reconceptualizes the central motif of Navez’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas painted in Brussels in 1823 (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2007.716), which was in turn inspired by Ingres’s major altarpiece for the church of Santissima Trinità dei Monti, Christ Giving the Keys to Peter (Musée Ingres Bourdelle, Montauban, MID.59.1.1), painted while Navez was in Rome.
Immediately above and behind the first family, a second mother stifles her child’s mouth to prevent his cries from revealing their hiding place.

François-Joseph Navez | The Massacre of the Innocents, 1824 (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beneath the figures, in the lower right corner of the canvas, is a lifeless gray fragment of acanthus from a fallen column capital-a foil to the living architecture and tree at the upper left of the painting.
The Roman architecture bespeaks Navez’s familiarity with European artistic convention since the Renaissance, and it also reflects his firsthand experience of Italy.
The artist’s signature and the date appear as engraved characters under the lip of the polished brass bowl at the lower left of the painting, a device that recalls David’s Farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis (Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 87.PA.27), which is dated and inscribed 1818 / BRUX on the brass horn hanging from a cord between the two figures.

The nearly square composition is a departure from the conventional horizontal pictorial field employed for history paintings.
Navez exploited the shape as a device to constrain the figures, thereby heightening their vulnerability and the potential for empathy among them, as well as on the part of the viewer.
The forms are crisply delineated, their surfaces smooth, and the colors are cool yet vibrant.

Navez relegated bloodshed to the background of his composition, and instead foregrounded the victims, thereby elevating their stature.
In this way, he intensified the story’s emotive power by locating its source in martyrdom and redemption rather than rampage.

In this respect, an incipient Romantic sensibility may be seen to merge with the classical underpinnings of Navez’s style.
These are all signature features of group portraits, allegories, and highly idiosyncratic Italian peasant subjects that Navez painted throughout the 1820s, and which found cogent expression in The Met’s painting. | Source: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

François-Joseph Navez | Self-Portrait, 1826 | Hood Museum of Art

"La strage degli innocenti" fu realizzato nel 1824 dal pittore Belga François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869) in stile neoclassico.
Il dipinto è attualmente al Metropolitan Museum of Art.
"La strage degli innocenti" è una storia della vita di Cristo.
Come raccontato nel Vangelo di Matteo (2:16-18), Erode il Grande, re della Giudea, ordinò l'uccisione di bambini di età inferiore ai due anni nella città di Betlemme e nei suoi dintorni.

L’obiettivo più grande di Erode era quello di uccidere il bambino Gesù, che era stato annunciato come re dei Giudei.
In questo dipinto Navez ha relegato quegli atti di violenza in secondo piano e ha riempito il primo piano con un insieme intrecciato di figure a grandezza naturale, compresse in un basso rilievo per aumentare l’identificazione dello spettatore con la propria vulnerabilità.
Lo "spaventoso realismo" di questa scena colpì i critici quando la tela fu esposta per la prima volta nel 1824, ad Amsterdam e poi a Bruxelles. | Fonte: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

François-Joseph Navez | The Massacre of the Innocents, 1824 (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

François-Joseph Navez | A Woman and a Turbaned Man in Despair with a Young Child | Metropolitan Museum of Art