Massacre of the Innocents

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"The Massacre of the Innocents", painted by Pacecco de Rosa during the 1600s, depicts a scene from the Bible in which we see the moment when soldiers were sent out by King Herod to kill every child in the region to end the rumors of a child prophesied to rule the kingdom. The baby whom he was looking for was none other than Jesus Christ. And upon careful observation, one can see that among all of the chaos occurring in this painting, there is one mother and child who do not seem to be frightened like the others, so one may conclude that this is Mary and her son, Jesus. However, this couple is actually Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, and her son, John the Baptist. Their presence in the painting is important, because they are the two main subjects, yet, ironically, they, at first, are the least noticeable. Their coloring is the least dynamic compared to the other figures, and they are located farther back in space than most of the figures as well. One may say they are the calm in the center of the storm, because we see that neither of them are being attacked, nor do they seem scared or stressed in anyway. This is due to the fact that de Rosa wanted to be true to the story, which stated that Elizabeth and John the Baptist were saved from this Peoples-2 massacre. De Rosa's motive for painting this piece is quite simple. He lived during the time of the Protestant Reformation, which then led to the Church's Counter-Reformation. Basically, the Catholic Church commissioned a number of painters, sculptors and architects, as well as many other artists, to create works of art that were appealing enough to encourage the community to return to the Church. Consequently, Pacecco de Rosa was one of these artists, thus explaining why he chose this for his subject matter. The painting is approximately six feet tall by ten feet wide. With this in mind, we see that each figure is about life size, if not slightly larger. De Rosa painted with oils on canvas, using every medium to its best advantage. For instance, we see his brush strokes are varied from one area of the canvas to another. In some places, he uses great detail with each stroke seeming very precise and calculated, like the tiny tear drops falling from the women's faces, or the minute hairs on the men's arms; however, in other areas, his strokes are more loose and gestural with large, heavy brush strokes. This technique was used in describing things like the folds in the fabric of a woman's dress or the clouds and sky in the background. One can see that de Rosa applied multiple layers of paint to some areas, Peoples-3 with less paint to others; however, in no parts of this piece do we see thick globs of paint protruding from the surface. Instead, the canvas maintains an overall smooth texture. Because of this, the viewer can enjoy the painting from both near and far. In fact, a pensive observer may realize that many other contrasts, such as the latter aforementioned, also exist in this painting in a variety of ways. To begin with, we shall look at the composition. At first glance the figures seem to be placed in no specific order"“-almost chaotic if you will. Every one of them is placed in a very shallow foreground, filling up all but a little space at the top of the painting. No perspective is really used because the space does not go back far enough, but with the use of overlapping, as well as lighting, we understand that the figures are existing in some amount of space, rather than just standing on top of one another. The sky peeking through in the upper half of the painting is to show the setting, and to imply where our light source is located, being the top left corner. We can see that the light source comes from that corner of the canvas because of the extreme shadows cast by the figures and the weapons they are holding. The contrast between light's and dark's are so strong in some places that it draws your eyes directly to it almost immediately. Having such a strong light source can be very Peoples-4 helpful because it not only further emphasizes the space of the painting, but it also helps separate figures and objects that would otherwise be lost to the viewers eye. As I mentioned before, there initially seems to be no order to this painting. Yet, after looking a little closer, the viewer realizes that each figure is connected somehow and related to one another through their gazes as well as gestures and other objects in the painting. For instance the gaze of one woman in the lower left corner leads towards the man attacking her. In the mean time the sword that he is holding leads the viewer's eye towards another figure behind him, and so it goes through out the rest of the painting. We do not see a lot of symmetry, however with the number of diagonals that exist in this painting, one can say that geometry is found in one way or another. For instance, many of the figures are organized together in groups of three, usually a woman who is protecting her child from a soldier. Some groupings contain two women and a soldier or two women and an infant, among others. Color also plays a very important part in the composition of this painting as well. For example, two figures stand in the very front of the foreground, wearing bright blue and brilliant yellow clothing. De Rosa paid close attention to the details in the ruffles of the woman's dress, while at the same time using Peoples-5 broad brush strokes to paint the shirt in order to emphasize the differences in textures. Because of their strong and striking colors, these two figures seem to be the most important, when in reality, the main subjects are supposed to be Elizabeth and John the Baptist. Another example of the importance of color in this painting would be the infants. Those who have been killed have a greenish, chalky, washed out color to them, whereas the babies who are still alive have a warmer tone, with many pink, peac

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