Massacre of the Innocents
Théodore Rousseau (1812 - 1867), 1847
oil on canvas,
95 cm x 146.5 cm
The Mesdag Collection, The Hague
Mesdag owned many forest scenes by the French artist Théodore Rousseau. Of them, the Massacre of the Innocents is one of the most exceptional. The title suggests a gory history painting, but Rousseau’s ‘slaughter’ was the felling of a stand of trees. With some effort the woodchoppers can be discerned sawing the trees and hanging from ropes.
Théodore Rousseau was a leading figure in the Barbizon School . This group of artists preferred working in the Forest of Fontainebleau, some 50 kilometres south of Paris. This ancient royal hunting ground had always remained unspoiled.
The work’s sketchiness appealed greatly to Mesdag. He was very partial to studies and sketches that clearly reflected the artist’s own handwriting.