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David Jaffé on The Massacre of the Innocents: A not-to-be-missed ticket this Wednesday night

David Jaffé on The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

This Wednesday night join us at the AGO to hear the story behind one of our most famous and valuable paintings, The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens. Tickets cost just $22.50 ($20.50 if you’re a member or a mere $17 if you’re a student), but if you need some more convincing here are a few more reasons we think it’d be great to attend.

Rubens, Peter Paul (Flemish, 1577–1640) The Massacre of the Innocents circa 1611–1612 oil on oak panel The Thomson Collection © Art Gallery of Ontario

  • Your speaker is David Jaffé. Not only is he Senior Curator in the Department of Painting at the National Gallery in London, he is also a world authority on Rubens. He’s published several books on the subject of the great painter and is bound to have some fascinating insights into his life and his work.
  • He’s also brilliant at putting Rubens’ work into context for a modern audience. Check out this video where he compares horses in the 17th century to ‘sexy Lamborghinis.’
  • Ken Thomson acquired the painting at auction at Sotheby’s for £49.5 million, a record for an Old Master at the time and still a huge amount today. Not to give too much away, but the story of how he tracked it down to an isolated monastery is a good one. Today the painting is one of the jewels of the AGO’s Thomson Collection thanks to his generous donation to the Gallery.

David Jaffé on The Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens from The Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario (DVD)

  • With Halloween just around the corner you might well be in the mood for some blood and guts. Massacre of the Innocents shows the slaying ordered by King Herod when he was told by the Three Wise Men that a King of the Jews had been born, and decided to prevent him from becoming a rival. Mary, Joseph and their new born child were already on their way to Egypt. It depicts, amongst other things, a man with a baby raised above his head, preparing to dash it to the ground. Gruesome.
  • The scene itself has been depicted throughout history and often has political as well as religious significance. Discover why Rubens’ version stands out and hear about the conditions at the time which informed his interpretation.
  • The painting itself is awe-inspiring. Dramatic and emotional, it demonstrates the influence on Rubens by Italian painters such as Carvaggio. However, the painting has only been recognised as a true Rubens since 2001 – before that it had been miscategorised as belonging to one of his assistants.

If you have any more questions about tonight’s talk or to book your tickets please visité or call us on 1 877 225 4246. If you’re unable to make the talk on Wednesday but you would like to learn about The Massacre of the Innocents you can follow along on our liveblog, which will appear on

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