Two views of a massacre

Probably Pieter Breughel the Younger, The Massacre of the Innocents, at Upton House. ©National Trust/Angelo Hornak, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

Probably Pieter Breughel the Younger, The Massacre of the Innocents, at Upton House. ©National Trust/Angelo Hornak, image supplied by the Public Catalogue Foundation

The team at Upton House are raising funds to conserve the painting Massacre of the Innocents, possibly painted by Pieter Breughel the Younger (1564-1638).

The Upton Breughel awaiting conservation. ©National Trust

The Upton Breughel awaiting conservation. ©National Trust

It has been in need of attention for a while, and is now looking a bit sorry for itself, covered in stabilising tissue ‘plasters’. A JustGiving page has been opened to help raise the £15,000 required for the extensive investigation and treatment.

The picture shows the massacre of children ordered by Herod following the birth of Christ. But there is also a political undertone to the imagery: it is set in a Flemish village, with the figures clad as in Breughel’s own time. It is thought to be a semi-veiled reference to the atrocities committed by the troops of the Spanish Habsburgs who then ruled the Netherlands.

Pieter Breughel the Elder (c.1525-69), Massacre of the Innocents, in the Royal Collection. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Pieter Breughel the Elder (c.1525-69), Massacre of the Innocents, in the Royal Collection. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

There is a version of this painting by Pieter Breughel the Elder in the Royal Collection, in which the image of massacre has been partially repainted to make it look less gruesome. Interestingly, this was done when that picture was owned by the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, also a Habsburg – an example of sixteenth-century ‘image management’.

 

2 Responses to “Two views of a massacre”

  1. wherefivevalleysmeet Says:

    I wrote a post about the Massacre of the Innocents in the Royal Collection, and how it was changed to look less gruesome, but I did not realise that there was another one at Upton House.

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes it is always fascinating to compare different versions of the same work, but even more so if they have been bowdlerised as in this case.

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