Agnolo Bronzino

Agnolo Gaddi

Ambrogio Lorenzetti

Andreadi di Bonaiuto

Andrea del Castagno

Andrea del Sarto

Andrea di Bartolo

Andrea Mantegna

Antonello da Messina

Antonio del Pollaiuolo

Bartolo di Fredi

Bartolomeo di Giovanni

Benozzo Gozzoli

Benvenuto di Giovanni

Bernard Berenson

Bernardo Daddi

Bianca Cappello

Bicci di Lorenzo

Bonaventura Berlinghieri

Buonamico Buffalmacco

Byzantine art



Dietisalvi di Speme

Domenico Beccafumi

Domenico di Bartolo

Domenico di Michelino

Domenico veneziano


Duccio di Buoninsegna

Eleonora da Toledo

Federico Zuccari

Filippino Lippi

Filippo Lippi

Fra Angelico

Fra Carnevale

Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Francesco Pesellino

Francesco Rosselli

Francia Bigio

Gentile da Fabriano


Domenico Ghirlandaio


Giorgio Vasari

Giotto di bondone

Giovanni da Modena

Giovanni da San Giovanni

Giovanni di Francesco

Giovanni di Paolo

Giovanni Toscani

Girolamo di Benvenuto

Guidoccio Cozzarelli

Guido da Siena

Il Sodoma

Jacopo del Sellaio

Jacopo Pontormo

Lippo Memmi

Lippo Vanni

Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Monaco

Lo Scheggia

Lo Spagna

Luca Signorelli


masolino da panicale

master of monteoliveto

master of sain tfrancis

master of the osservanza

matteo di giovanni

memmo di filippuccio

neroccio di bartolomeo

niccolo di segna

paolo di giovanni fei

paolo ucello


piero della francesca

piero del pollaiolo

piero di cosimo

pietro aldi

pietro lorenzetti



sandro botticelli

sano di pietro


simone martini

spinello aretino

taddeo di bartolo

taddeo gaddi

ugolino di nerio



Fra Angelico, The Massacre of the Innocents, detail from panel one of the Silver Treasury of Santissima Annunziata, c.1450-53
Travel guide for Tuscany
The Massacre of the Innocents

The Massacre of the Innocents is an episode of infanticide by the King of Judea, Herod the Great, that appears in the Gospel of Matthew 2:16-18. The author, traditionally Matthew the Evangelist, reports that Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the village of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the Magi. The incident is described as the fulfillment of passages in the Old Testament read as prophecies.

The infants, known in the Church as the Holy Innocents, have been claimed as the first Christian martyrs. Estimates put their number in the low dozens.[2] There is dispute over whether the story is historical.

The theme of the "Massacre of the Innocents" has provided artists of many nationalities with opportunities to compose complicated depictions of massed bodies in violent action. It was an alternative to the Flight into Egypt in cycles of the Life of the Virgin. It decreased in popularity in Gothic art, but revived in the larger works of the Renaissance, when artists took inspiration for their "Massacres" from Roman reliefs of the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs to the extent that they showed the figures heroically nude. The horrific subject matter of the Massacre of the Innocents also provided a comparison of ancient brutalities with early modern ones during the period of religious wars that followed the Reformation - Breugel's versions show the soldiers carrying banners with the Habsburg double-headed eagle (often used at the time for Ancient Roman soldiers).
Notable examples are painted by Duccio, Giotto.


Kerald (Meister des Codex Egberti) 001

Codex Egberti, Fol 15v, Szene: Bethlehemitischer Kindermord, 10th century


The Golden Legend or Legenda aurea or Legenda sanctorum, is a collection of hagiographies by Jacobus de Voragine that became a late medieval bestseller. The Legenda aurea was the most popular and most widespread religious folk book of the middle ages.
In its time it was read more often than the Bible and it was Jacobus Voragine's main work.

Art in Tuscany | The Golden Legend (Legenda aurea or Legenda sanctorum)
  Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea, Massacre of the Innocents, Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California
Giotto Di Bondone | The Massacre of the Innocents | 1310s

Giotto Di Bondone | The Massacre of the Innocents, orth transept, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi

Frescoes on the ceiling of the north transept of the Lower Church in Assisi.

It is assumed that the Magdalen Chapel was the starting-point of the work carried out by Giotto and his assistants in other parts of the Lower Church, including the right transept and the vault. It has been recently demonstrated that these areas were frescoed before Pietro Lorenzetti painted the scenes of the Passion in the left transept, a work executed before 1320. It is thought that as soon as the frescoes in the Magdalen Chapel were completed, Giotto and his workshop were commissioned to redecorate the right transept of the vault. This area had been previously frescoed in the late thirteenth century, as is indicated by the presence of Cimabue's large fresco of the Madonna enthroned with angels and St. Francis, which was spared.
At the beginning and in the middle of the 20th century the frescoes in the Lower church were cleaned and painstakingly restored. Since then some have held them to be the work of utmost quality from Giotto's own hand, others as the ambitious work of pupils. The debate is open up to now.
The fresco cycle on one side consists of large scenes from the life of the Virgin and the childhood of Christ separated by decorative bands with busts of Prophets, while the other side represents scenes from the Passion of Christ. The west wall is occupied by scenes representing the Miracle of St Francis in Sessa (in two parts) and the Annunciation.


Fra Angelico, Armadio degli Argenti, Massacre of the Innocents, 1451-52


Fra Angelico, Massacre of the Innocents, 1451-52, tempera on wood, 38,5 x 37 cm, Museo di San Marco, Florence

The Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation) is a Roman Catholic minor basilica in Florence and the mother church of the Servite order. It is located at the northeastern side of the Piazza Santissima Annunziata.
n 1448, according to an early chronicle, Fra Angelico received from Piero de Medici, Cosimo's son, the prestigious assignment to decorate the doors of a silver treasury for the new oratory to be constructed near the chapel of the Santissima Annunziata in the church of the same name. Fra Angelico did not begin work on this extensive series of small paintings until after his return from Rome in 1449/50. The silver treasury panels were the last major commission undertaken by Fra Angelico and he was evidently unable to bring the project to completion before he was called back to Rome, where he died in February 1455.

Herod, with crown and sceptre, watches from above the infanticide he has ordained. The sinister, dark-clad soldiers pour through the archway wielding black daggers against the children. The mothers, shown in a great variety of terrified postures and with looks of horror, attempt to protect their infants, but to no avail.

Art in Tuscany | Fra Angelico | Paintings for the Armadio degli Argenti (1451-52)

Sano di Pietro, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1470


Sano di Pietro, The Massacre of the Innocents, 1470, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The panels The Massacre of the Innocents, The Adoration of the Magi, and two others probably formed the predella of an altarpiece, probably that of the "Purification of the Virgin" formerly in the cathedral of Massa Marittima. The pictures, from about 1470, are typical of Sano's popular, conservative approach to painting, appreciated by the Franciscan order.

Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents, floor mosaic in the Cathedral of Siena


Slaughter of the Innocents

Matteo di Giovanni, Floor mosaic Strage degli Innocenti (Slaughter of the Innocents) by Matteo di Giovanni in the Cathedral of Siena (detail)

The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral.The inlaid marble mosaic floor is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy, covering the whole floor of the cathedral. This undertaking went on from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, and about forty artists made their contribution. The floor consists of 56 panels in different sizes. Most have a rectangular shape, but the later ones in the transept are hexagons or rhombuses. They represent the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues. Most are still in their original state. The earliest scenes were made by a graffito technique: drilling tiny holes and scratching lines in the marble and filling these with bitumen or mineral pitch. In a later stage black, white, green, red and blue marble intarsia were used. This technique of marble inlay also evolved during the years, finally resulting in a vigorous contrast of light and dark, giving it an almost modern, impressionistic composition.
The uncovered floor can only be seen for a period of six to ten weeks each year, generally including the month of September. The rest of the year, they are covered and only a few are on display.
The large panel in the transept The Slaughter of the Innocents (Strage degli Innocenti) is probably the work of Matteo di Giovanni in 1481. The painter was worryingly preoccupied with this theme - his disturbing paintings can be seen in the Palazzo Pubblico and Santa Maria dei Servi.


Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents


Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents, Massacre of the Innocents, 1482, The Chapel of our Lady, Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala, Siena

Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents, Massacre of the Innocents, 1482, Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala, Siena

The Chapel of our Lady also holds one of the four versions of the Massacre of the Innocents, which Matteo di Giovanni, an artist born in Sansepolcro, and one of the leading figures of fifteenth-century Sienese art, painted in the course of a decade. The canvas on deposit at Santa Maria della Scala, is the work made by the artist in 1482 for the church of Sant'Agostino in Siena.
Matteo di Giovanni painted four monumental compositions of the Massacre of the Innocents, three for Sienese churches and one in inlaid stone for the pavement of the Duomo.
The picture painted for Sant'Agostino, like the final one made for the Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi (also known as San Clement), seems to present some iconographic innovations, probably the fruit of the terrible echo, still resonating among his contemporaries, of the siege and massacre perpetrated by the Turks at Otranto in 1481.
Here, in the place of clothing and armor with a classical imprint, oriental styles prevail, and even in the facial features we can detect some 'Moorish' characteristics. The entire scene is marked by ferocity and cruelty, emphasized also by the range of colors used. The arches and columns of Herod's palace suggest that the artist had visited Rome. He has left no foreground space and every inch of Herod's hall is occupied by screaming mothers, dead or dying babies, and bloodthirsty soldiers. The marble pavement is covered by infant corpses. Impassive courtiers flank Herod's throne, while the gloating king is portrayed as a monster: one hand is outstretched to order the butchery; the other, like a claw, clutches the marble sphinx on the arm of his thronThe panel for the church of Sant'Agostino was originally part of an altarpiece 'in the ancient style', topped by a gold ground lunette which was removed in the seventeenth century, while the panel itself, although moved to a different place, always remained inside the church.

Matteo di Giovanni 002

Matteo di Giovanni, Massacre of the Innocents, 1488, Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples



Domenico Ghirlandaio | The Adoration of the Magi, Slaughter of the Innocents


Domenico Ghirlandaio, Adoration of the Magi (detail, Slaughter of the Innocents), 1488, Spedale degli Innocenti, Firenze

In temperament and approach, however, Ghirlandaio differed from both of his putative painting teachers. "Pronto, presto, e facile," as Vasari described him, Ghirlandaio simplified their painstakingly realistic styles into one more suitable for fresco. The artist was, in fact, primarily active in that medium, creating extensive fresco cycles in Rome (Sistine Chapel, 1481-1482) and elsewhere. His most notable Florentine cycles are in the Sassetti chapel in Santa Trinità (1483-1485) and in the choir, patronized by the Tornabuoni family, in Santa Maria Novella (1486-1490). To complete such vast undertakings Ghirlandaio employed a highly organized workshop, which included not only his brothers Davide and Benedetto but also his brother-in-law Sebastiano Mainardi, and even the young Michelangelo.

On 28 October 1485, the Francesco di Giovanni Tesori, the prior of an orphanage ordered a panel painting of the Adoration of the Magi from Ghirlandaio. The picture was intended for the main altar of the Spedale degli Innocenti, a foundling hospital.
In the harrowing scene of the Slaughter of the Innocents in the background, Berenson recognized the hand of Bartolomeo di Giovanni, the author of the stories from the predella, whom he poetically called "Domenico's friend".

The town beyond this, in which we can see monuments such as the Colosseum, Trajan's Column, the Torre delle Milizie, and a pyramid, is meant to be reminiscent of Rome.

Art in Tuscany | Domenico Ghirlandaio | The Adoration of the Magi


Domenico Ghirlandaio,detail, Slaughter of the Innocents), fresco in the Cappella Tornabuoni, Santa Maria Novella, Firenze

The Tornabuoni Chapel, or Cappella Tornabuoni, is the main chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence. It is famous for the extensive and well-preserved fresco cycle on its walls, one of the most complete in the city, which was created by Domenico Ghirlandaio and his workshop between 1485 and 1490.
Domenico Ghirlandaio and members of his workshop decorated the chapel between 1486 and 1490. Ghirlandaio was commissioned by Giovanni Tornabuoni, a rich and powerful member of the city's elite.
The scene Massacre of the Innocents was the one that Vasari, in his biography of Ghirlandaio, considered the best in the cycle, due to its dramatic and frantic composition. It is probable that Ghirlandaio was inspired by scenes of ancient Roman bas-reliefs, like that depicted on the arch in the background.On the vault (the ceiling) of the chapel the four Evangelists were depicted. The right wall was dedicated to the life of St John the Baptist, and the left wall shows scenes from the life of Mary. Ghirlandaio also designed the rear wall. The panels on that wall have been dispersed over several collections, but the stained glass windows are still present.
This fresco shows the slaughter king Herod ordered when the three wise men had refused to tell him the whereabouts of the newborn Jesus. Herod wished to have Jesus killed, as he considered him as a competitor. Not knowing where to find Jesus, Herod must have thought "well then, let's simply kill all infants in Bethlehem".
In the foreground is a tumultuous, dramatic scene with desperate mothers, violent soldiers and bloody limbs of children. The Roman arch in the back serves mainly to close the background, thereby limiting the space in the foreground. Vasari, the great biographer of Renaissance artists, celebrated this work most because of the variety in emotions in the faces.

Art in Tuscany | Domenico Ghirlandaio | The Tornabuoni Chapel


The Tornabuoni Chapel


The  Basilica Church of Santa Maria dei Servi  is a 13th century church, built on the site of the former San Clement church and annexed to a new convent. The church is notable for its a fine Romanesque bell tower and famous fresco inside. The church stands on the southern end of Piazza Alessandro Manzoni, south-east of the Siena Cathedral and Piazza del Campo.
The simple west facade of the church, with a single portal and a rose window, remains unfinished. The Romanesque campanile (13th century) has four orders of windows, increasing in number as they go up in order to enhance the effect of perspective. It was thoroughly restored in the 20th century.
Inside is a central nave flanked by two aisles and a number of notable artworks. On the right is the Madonna del Bordone (the Virgin and Child with two Angels) by Coppo di Marcovaldo (1261).
In the second chapel in the south transept is the famous Slaughter of the Innocents fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1330). The altarpiece is Lippo Memmi's Madonna del Pópolo (c. 1317). Also notable are a Crucifix of the 14th century and a holy water stoup of the 13th century.


Detail of Slaughter of the Innocents fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1330), second chapel in south transept
Detail of Slaughter of the Innocents fresco by Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1330), second chapel in south transept



[1] The Church Latin writer and archbishop Jacobus de Voragine, also known as Jacobus a Voragine or "Varagine", was born in Voragine, today's Varazze near Genoa, Italy, in 1230. In 1244 he entered the Dominican order and at the age of 22 became a professor. Jacobus de Voragine was an extraordinary and brilliant speaker, he taught at various schools of the order and worked as an itinerant preacher.
From 1267 to 1278 and again from 1281 to 1286 he was a provincial of Lombardy and mediated in the conflict between the Guelfs and the Ghibellines on behalf of Pope Honorius IV. Two years later he he was elected archbishop of Genoa and took up office in 1292.
On July 14, 1292 he was buried under the main altar of the Dominican church in Genoa. "Legenda aurea", the "Golden Legend" is the most popular and most widespread religious folk book of the middle ages.
In its time it was read more often than the Bible and it was Jacobus Voragine's main work.

The history of the medieval illuminated book in western Europe began with the introduction of the Christian faith into those regions which had been dominated during the 5th and 6th cen- turies, the aptly named Dark Ages, by the migrating Germanic peoples. Christianity is a book-based religion, its central pivot the Four Gospels chronicling the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. Access to a copy of this text was a fundamental requirement for every priest, both as a foundation for his teaching and as a central necessity in the performance of the liturgy. Such a book would naturally be the first to inspire decoration within and without, to provide a visual focus for the devotions of the newly faithful, most of whom would for a long time have remained illit- erate and mindful of their pagan roots. Copies of the gospels were thus for several centuries the target of the finest endeavours of illuminators.
Janet Backhouse, The Illuminated Page: Ten Centuries of Manuscript Painting in the British Library, British Library, London, 1997 |

[1] Giotto di Bondone (c. 1267–January 8, 1337), better known simply as Giotto, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Italian Renaissance.
Giotto's contemporary Giovanni Villani wrote that Giotto was "the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the commune [of Florence] in virtue of his talent and excellence."
The later 16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari says of him "...He made a decisive break with the ...Byzantine style, and brought to life the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years."
Giotto's masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, commonly called the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the commune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and where he was eventually buried after his death.

[2] MATTEO DI GIOVANNI: an account of a painted massacre, 23rd June - 08th October 2006
The exhibition intends to illustrate the paintings of Matteo di Giovanni in a chronological sequence to establish the compositional-substantial developments especially in the last one carried out for the powerful, Sienese Spannocchi family. [read more]

[1] Matteo Di Giovanni was born at Borgo San Sepolcro, c.1435, but worked chiefly as an artist in the city of Siena. In the fourteenth century the masters of the Sienese school rivalled the Florentine painters; in the fifteenth, the former school, resisting the progress achieved at Florence, allowed itself to be outstripped by its rival. Although in this period it gives the impression of a superannuated art, Sienese painting still charms with its surviving line traditional qualities - its sincerity of feeling, the refined grace of its figures, its attention to minutiae of dress and of architectural background, and its fascinating frankness of execution. Of these qualities Matteo has his share, but he is furthermore dlstinguished by the dignity of his female figures, the gracious presence of his angels, and the harmony of a colour scheme at once rich and brilliant. For this reason critics pronounce him the best of the fifteenth century Sienese painters.
The earliest authentic work of Matteo is dated 1470, a Virgin enthroned, with angels, painted for the Servites, and now in the Academy of Siena. In 1487 he executed for the high altar of Santa Maria de' Servi del Borgo - the Servite church of his native village - an "Assumption" with the Apostles and other saints looking on; on the predella he has painted the history of the Blessed Virgin. According to G. Milanesi (in his edition of Vasari, II, Florence, 1878, p. 493, note 3), the main portion of this painting is still to be seen in the church, while the lateral portions have been removed to the sacristy. Some other Madonnas of his, deserve particular rnention: one in the Palazzo Tolomei at Siena, the Virgin and Infant Jesus painted, in 1484 for the city palace of Sienna, on a pilaster in the hall decorated by Spinello Aretino; in the duomo of Pienza, a Virgin and Child enthroned between St.Mathew and St.Catherine, St.Bartholomew and St.Luke. On the lunette Matteo painted the Flagellation, and on the predella three medallions - "Ecce Homo", the Virgin, and an Evangelist. The signature reads: "Opus Mathei Johannis de Senis". As decoration for the pavement of the cathedral of Sienna, he designed three subjects: "The Sibyl of Samos", "The Deliverance of Bethulia", and "The Massacre of the Innocents".
In 1477 he painted his "Madonna della Neve" (Our Lady of Snow), for the church under that invocation at Sienna. On comparing this with the Servite Madonna of 1470, it is seen to surpass the earlier work in beauty of types, symmetry of proportions, and colour-tone. The St.Barbara, a composition made for the church of San Domenico at Siena, is also remarkable work: tvvo angels are gracefully laying a crown on the saint's head, while others, accompanied by St.Mary Magdalen and St.Catherine of Alexandria and playing instruments, surround her. When Matteo treats subjects involving lively action, he loses a great deal of his power. The incidental scenes are combined in a confused way, the expression of feeling is forced, and degenerates into grimace, and the general result is affected and caricature-like.
Matteo Di Giovanni died in 1495.


This page incorporates material from the Wikipedia article Massacre of the Innocents, published under the GNU Free Documentation License.