The Massacre of the Innocents

Garofalo (Benvenuto Tisi)

Ferrara, c. 1481 – 1559

Oil on panel, cm 252 x 178

Inv. 161

The Pinacoteca Nazionale, Ferrara

The Massacre of the Innocents has always been one of Garofalo’s most famous works. The animated composition centres on two opposing groups: mothers and executioners, one group seen from the front, the other from behind. Vasari praised the varied stances of the figures and their different facial expressions, and at the beginning of the eighteenth century Girolamo Baruffaldi described this as Garofalo’s most ‘Raphaelesque’ work. The similarities with Raphael’s mature style, in particular that of the second and third Stanze Vaticane (1511-1517) are indeed clear. The strikingly sculptural shaping of the figures and the dynamic composition were probably inspired by the preparatory sketches for the Fire in the Borgo, which Raphael gave to Alfonso I d’Este in 1517.