BRUEGEL, Pieter the Elder
(b. ca. 1525, Brogel, d. 1569, Brussel)
The Massacre of the Innocents1565-67
Oil on panel, 111 x 160 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
There are two versions of this composition by Bruegel. The original is probably the painting in the Royal Collection at Hampton Court Palace, but that panel is considerably damaged and repainted. The version in Vienna appears to be a workshop replica, perhaps completed by Bruegel himself. Both were painted around 1565-7.
As in the Procession to Calvary, Bruegel depicts a biblical event in contemporary terms. In this case he shows the sacking and plundering of a Flemish village. Such scenes were of course only too tragically familiar in Flanders during Bruegel's lifetime, but it is unlikely that the painter intended to condemn a particular act of Spanish aggression. Bruegel was delivering a more general condemnation of war and the individual acts of atrocity which war condones.