The Massacre of the Innocents (Le massacre des innocents)
Herod learned of the birth of the Christ Child from the Magi, who sought Jesus and called the infant the King of the Jews. As the ruler of Judaea appointed by the Romans, Herod felt his authority challenged by this newcomer. Known for his brutality, Herod then ordered the murder of all male children under the age of two in Bethlehem. Although Tissot acknowledged that the number of victims must have been relatively few in a village like Bethlehem, he depicted horror on a large scale in this episode.
According to a tradition recounted in Tissot’s commentary, Herod lured the intended victims to the palace with the promise of a party. The children were then wrenched from their mothers’ arms and tossed to their deaths in a courtyard. Herod’s deviousness was thus highlighted: called singly into a long corridor, the women had no opportunity to warn others of the impending tragedy.
Contemporary critics universally remarked on the harshness of this scene, which anticipates the artist’s exacting attention to the specifics of the Passion.
Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Image: 10 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (27 x 16.5 cm)
Sheet: 10 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (27 x 16.5 cm)
Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm) (show scale)
Signed bottom left: "J.J. Tissot"
This item is not on view
Purchased by public subscription
No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form
The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act.
The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals.
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Massacre of the Innocents (Le massacre des innocents), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 10 5/8 x 6 1/2 in. (27 x 16.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.33 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.33_PS2.jpg)
overall, 00.159.33_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2008
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.