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The allegory of the slaughter of the innocents
17th Century
Pietro TESTA
The allegory of the slaughter of the innocents
[La strage degli innocenti]
Oil on canvas
123.5 x 173.5 cm  [HxW]
Galleria Spada, Roma

Piero Testa was based in Rome where he shared an interest in the classical tradition with artists such as Nicholas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. At the end of his short life he was better regarded as a print maker and draughtsman, having suffered from a lack of patrons for his painting. He was found drowned in the River Tiber aged 37. The massacre of the innocents is the story of King Herod’s slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. The beatific infants, the first martyrs in heaven, watch the dramatic tableau on the step of Herod’s palace. The lamb clutched to the angel’s breast symbolises innocence and sacrifice. The angled composition allows us to witness the escape of Mary and Joseph and the infant Jesus, and juxtaposes the dramatic foreground with the classical landscape.

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