Raphael took this complex theme into his own career and required multiple study pieces in order to prepare for a busy oil painting composition. Many famous names have taken on this inspiring story, most famously Rubens, Bruegel, Giotto and Tintoretto.

This biblical story tells a tale of Herod the Great ordering the execution of any boys in proximity to Bethlehem, in order to protect his legacy. Terms such as "Massacre" and "Innocents" will, by definition, arouse strong emotions as to the brutality and injustice of this scenario.

It was unusual for Raphael to take on such powerful scenes when most of his work would touch at delicate, intimate female portraits. This animated scene, though, was an ideal way for him to display his anatomical skills, capturing figures in countlessly different poses and extortions.

The other artists mentioned here were far more used to these types of busy scenes, as was another significant Renaissance artist - Caravaggio (see Judith Beheading Holofernes).

Raphael also produced a similar study artwork which can be found in the Royal Collection, UK. This red chalk over leadpoint sketch was completed in 1510 for an engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi. The two worked together regularly and the production of print copies of Raphael's work helped to spread his reputation across Italy and the European continent.