The Massacre of the Innocents, c. 1584

Not on Viewexpand_more

Few themes are as powerful as the gruesome Massacre of the Innocents, King Herod's campaign of slaughter to protect his reign as the Roman-appointed King of the Jews in Judea. According to the Gospel of Matthew, on hearing of the Magi's announcement of the birth of Jesus as the newborn king of the Jews, Herod ordered the murder of all male children two years old and younger who lived in Bethlehem or the vicinity in the hope that he would also kill Jesus. In a dream, Joseph was warned of Herod's merciless plan and escaped with his family to Egypt.

Hendrik Goltzius's unfinished print displays his virtuoso technique of incised webs of curving lines, practically unparalleled in the history of engraving. The back and buttocks of the figure with a staff, probably King Herod, mark the artist's first use of his trademark technique of engraving lines that swell and taper by turns.

The Massacre of the Innocents
Artist Life
Accession Number
William M. Ladd, Portland, Ore.; Herschel V. Jones, Minneapolis; given to MIA, 1916
Catalogue Raisonne
B.23; Holl.17 i/iii; Str.206 i/iii
Curator Approved

This record is from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator, so may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

Zoom in on the left to the detail you'd like to save. Click 'Save detail' and wait until the image updates. Right click the image to 'save image as' or copy link, or click the image to open in a new tab.