Raphael, The Massacre of
the Innocents, a drawing, and a print by
Marcantonio Raimondi after
Italy, around AD 1509
This is a working drawing in pen and brown ink.
In it we see Herod's soldiers murdering the male children
in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the infant Jesus. The central
vertical axis is marked to the left of centre: a pivotal figure
runs towards us. She is modelled with dense
to suggest a powerfully sculptural form. To either side in the
front are the two groups of executioner and mother. On the right,
in the middle ground, the executioner pulling the hair of the
mother are the only figures with red chalk underdrawing. Raphael
sketched them in as an afterthought, inking over them to see the
effect. The ink lines, however, are sketchy by comparison with the
fuller, densely cross-hatched figures in the foreground. He
rejected this couple in that position and, as they are the only two
not pricked for transfer, they do not appear in the final print.
Instead, he turned this pair round so that the executioner provides
a more balanced reflection of the soldier at front
by Marcantonio Raimondi corresponds exactly with the drawing, so
far as it goes, though it contains more figures and shows the women
clothed. It also gives the scene a landscape background and one of
the bridges of ancient Rome, which binds the composition together.
Raphael was one of the first Italian artists to collaborate closely
with specialist printmakers. This activity was both a source of
income and a means of making Raphael's inventions more
widely known, thereby increasing his fame.
P. Pouncey and J. A. Gere, Italian drawings in the Depa-3 (London, The British Museum Press, 1962)
P. Joannides, The drawings of Raphael (Phaidon, 1983)
R. Jones and N. Penny, Raphael (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1983)
F. Ames-Lewis, The draftsman Raphael (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986)
J.A Gere and N. Turner, Drawings by Raphael, from the, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1983)