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The Massacre of the Innocents?/Presentation in the Temple : Kelmscott, Oxfordshire (‡Oxford) Late C.13

Massacre of the Innocents?/Presentation in the Temple, Kelmscott [38KB] Facing the story of Cain & Abel in the north transept at Kelmscott is this battered series of Infancy scenes. It is hard to be certain about details, but I think the scene at the far left and shown enlarged at the left below is likely to be the Massacre of the Innocents, found quite commonly elsewhere in Infancy Cycles. There are two principal figures placed centrally, and some confusing details between and below them which suggest that these are soldiers killing children. In particular, a small head, probably that of a child, is visible in the center of the scene just above the lower edge.
The scene is placed directly opposite that of the Murder of Abel by Cain, and if my identification is correct, this was probably intentional and meant to suggest that Herod and his men are metaphorical descendants of the fratricidal Cain.Massacre of the Innocents?/Presentation in the Temple, Kelmscott, detail [46KB]

If this is indeed the case, then the sceneMassacre of the Innocents?/Presentation in the Temple, Kelmscott, detail [71KB] on the right (detail, right), which I think is the presentation in the Temple as narrated in Luke 2:21-38, provides a contrasting theme of obedience to law and acceptable sacrifice. Furthest left here, under the painted canopy, is a figure who is probably Joseph, holding a basket which might contain the ‘pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons’, with Mary very faint indeed beside him, and a small head, almost certainly that of the infant Jesus, beyond to the right. What was probably a standing figure, and therefore perhaps Simeon, is, again very faintly, discernible at the far right.

The question of what was originally in the central section, now diapered with stylised flowers, is likely to remain open. The diapering here looks contemporary with the rest of the painting, but I suspect there was probably a narrative scene - perhaps the Adoration of the Shepherds (keepers of sheep like Abel) here originally. As in the story of Cain and Abel at Kelmscott, where their significance, if any, is discussed, crowned heads look on from the spandrels. The Kelmscott Expulsion from Paradise has been on the site for some time.

Links to other Infancy Scenes
Annunciation to the Shepherds/Nativity, Ashampstead, Berkshire Nativity, Corby Glen, Lincs King Herod, with two Magi and other Nativity scenes, Corby Glen, Lincolnshire Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds, Wissington, Suffolk Adoration of the Magi, Black Bourton, Oxon.
Adoration of the Magi, Edstaston, Shropshire Nativity/Annunciation to the Shepherds, Faversham, Kent Adoration of the Magi/Presentation in the Temple, Faversham, Kent Adoration of the Magi, Heydon, Norfolk Adoration of the Magi, Pinvin, Worcs
Adoration of the Magi, Salisbury (St. Thomas) Wilts Adoration of the Shepherds/Magi, Thornham Parva, Suffolk Adoration of the Magi/Dream of the Magi, Wissington, Suffolk Three Magi, Burton Dassett, Warwicks. Massacre of the Innocents/Presentation in the Temple, Kelmscott, Oxon.
Flight into Egypt, Croughton, Northants Miracle of the Clay Birds, Shorthampton, Oxon. Baptism of Christ, Black Bourton, Oxon. Infancy Cycle, Brook, Kent Nativity scenes, with Annunciation to Shepherds, Hardham, Sussex NEW

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4/11/2001

Anne Marshall 2001