The Massacre of the Innocents

about 1710
Giuseppe Piamontini (Italian (Florence), 1663–1744)

Object Place: Italy


Overall: 66.7 x 83.8 cm (26 1/4 x 33 in.) Mount (Aluminum wall cleat / space bar): 15.2 x 92.1 cm (6 x 36 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Angelica Lloyd Russell Gallery (Gallery 142)





Cast in high relief against an architectural background of columns and arches. Soldiers slaughtering and carrying off young children while agitated mothers attempt to save them. Figures extend into space around edges.

These two masterpieces of bronze casting present scenes of cataclysmic violence. The Fall of the Giants shows figures crushed by boulders in a torrent of stone and flesh, while the Massacre of the Innocents stresses the brutality of the soldiers, the pliability of the babies’ bodies, and the wrenching terror and grief of the mothers. The sculptures seem to have been intended as a pair, and perhaps share the theme of the violence involved in momentous shifts from one religion to another; the Fall of the Giants marks the rise of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology, and the Massacre of the Innocents the beginning of the Christian era.


1724, exhibited at the church of SS. Annunziata, Florence [see note 1]. Sir Naylor-Leyland, Nantclwyd Hall, Ruthin, North Wales. By 1965, Mr. and Mrs. George Farrow, England [see note 2]; November 28, 1968, Farrow sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 36, to Heim Gallery, London; February 20, 1969, sold by Heim Gallery to Angus W. T. Hood, England; 1974, sold by Angus Hood to Heim Gallery; 1974, sold by Heim Gallery to the MFA. (Accession Date: December 11, 1974)

[1] This relief can be identified with the plaque exhibited by the artist at SS. Annunziata during the Festival of St. Luke in 1724, described in the catalogue as "Un Basso Relievo di Bronzo che rappresenta la Strage degl'Innocenti di mano del Sig. Giuseppe Piamontini" (A bronze bas-relief that represents the Massacre of the Innocents, by the hand of Mr. Giuseppe Piamontini). It was exhibited with its pendant, a bronze relief representing the Fall of the Giants (MFA no. 1974.607). See "Works of Art and a Collection of Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes," Sotheby's, London, November 28, 1968, lots 36-37. [2] Hugh Honour, "Florentine Baroque bronzes in an English private collection," Connoisseur 159, no. 640 (June, 1965), pp. 86, 89.

Credit Line

John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund