Poussin’s Art Brings to Life the Massacre of the Holy Innocents in All Its Horror

Source: FSSPX News

From September 11, 2017 to January 7, 2018, one of Nicolas Poussin’s greatest masterpieces is being exhibited in the Condé Museum in Chantilly. From the earliest days of its existence, the work has been the object of prestigious loans and has been counted among the greatest names in art.

The 17th-century painting illustrates an episode from the Bible: the massacre of the Holy Innocents. King Herod, furious that the Magi did not return to tell him where to find the Child Jesus, ordered his soldiers to kill all the babies in the kingdom under the age of two.

The artist depicts the tragic moment of a child being put to death, with his imploring mother trying to wrest him from the soldier. A young woman clothed in blue is helping her; it is Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, who “bewails her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not”, as the Gospel of St. Matthew recounts (2:18).

The opposition between the anonymous violence and brutality of the executioner on one hand and the despair and horror of the mother whose cry can almost be heard on the other, and the overwhelming tension of the scene have never failed to impress and command attention. Hence the success of the painting that was copied by many artists and continues to inspire some of the most famous painters even in our days.

The visitor begins by discovering the history of the painting and its different owners. Different interpretations of it from the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century are then presented.

The last rooms show some modern reinterpretations of the Massacre of the Innocents. Picasso’s Mass Grave hangs alongside Francis Bacon’s Head II. The exhibition then gets lost in some “unpublished propositions” by Annette Messager, Pierre Buraglio, and Jérôme Zonder that, according to the official presentation, are supposed to “show how strong and up-to-date the Condé Museum is”. What they really do is empty it of its substance in the name of a form of contemporary art that sacrifices the canons of the beautiful, the true, and the good on the altar of deconstruction and the law of the market. The Domain announces the presence of modern and contemporary art “for the first time in Chantilly”. May it be the last!

For More on the theme of Christian art >

Poussin, Le Massacre des Innocents

From Septembre 11, 2017 to January 8, 2018

Salle du Jeu de Paume du Domaine de Chantilly

Rue du Connétable

F - 60500 Chantilly

+33 3 44 27 31 80