CORNELIS VAN HAARLEM
(b. 1562, Haarlem, d. 1638, Haarlem)
Massacre of the Innocents1591
Oil on canvas, 268 x 257 cm
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem
Commissioned by the Haarlem Magistrate for the decoration of the Prinsenhof, the Massacre of the Innocents replaced a lost scene of the altarpiece of the Drapers' Guild in the St Bavo Church. The outer wings survived and were painted by Van Heemskerck.
Cornelis van Haarlem was a member of a group of Dutch painters called the Haarlem Mannerists. (The label is not a very good one because none of them were exclusively Mannerist.) They accepted the notion promulgated by Italian Mannerist theorists (Vasari, Lomazzo, Armenini, Federico Zuccaro) that nature must be studied but never slavishly copied.
The violent contortions and foreshortenings of the Herculean nudes, the exaggerated tension, and the forced perspective in Cornelis van Haarlem's life-size Massacre of the Innocents are all characteristic of late-sixteenth-century Dutch Mannerism.