Giotto di Bondone’s The Massacre of the Innocents is a religious painting that depicts the biblical story of infanticide and gendercide by King Herod. Measuring 200 x 185 cm, it is located in Arena Chapel and revolutionized Western Art. Giotto is widely regarded as the first genius of European painting, and his work marks the beginning of Renaissance experimentation with perspective.
The piece shows a series of episodes at the same time, each mirrored by an answering one. This effect creates a sense of chaos as viewers observe mothers trying to protect their children from soldiers who are killing infants. Giotto’s use of vivid blue colors creates contrast and draws attention to focal points such as grieving mothers grasping for their children or soldiers holding swords over babies’ heads.
The biblical passage related in Matthew’s Gospel inspired this masterpiece. The painting captures Herod’s order to kill all male infants born in Bethlehem when he heard about Jesus’ birth, hoping to eliminate any potential threat to his rule. Despite its somber subject matter, Giotto’s Massacre is a remarkable example of early Renaissance art that continues to inspire contemporary artists worldwide.