When, after the birth of Christ, the arrival of the ‘King of the Jews’ was prophesied, King Herod ordered all children under the age of two to be killed. Rubens painted the mothers’ futile battle as well as their anger: Like Furies, they attack a man whose movement echoes that in ‘Laocoön’. At that time, the Classical sculpture was considered the quintessential expression of pain.
This subject was deemed appropriate for the decoration of town halls. It shows the negative consequences of improper rule and serves as a reminder to govern justly and modestly.