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 cross-hatching 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 left.

The engraving 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.

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More information


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)


Height: 231.000 mm
Width: 374.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1860-4-14-446 (drawing);PD 1972.U.1182 (print)



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