Rubens painted his masterpiece in 1611 shortly after a trip to Italy, where he had been thrilled by the verve of artists such as Titian. He returned to Flanders with an early Baroque style and a great deal of energy - much of which ended up on canvas. "The Massacre" depicts a mass of twisted and tragic humanity, as King Herod's soldiers shove mothers aside to murder their new-born babies.
Even the Reichersberg monks were said to dislike the painting. Certainly, the elderly Austrian woman who lent it to them was no fan. Perhaps biblical ghastliness was not her cup of tea. And she didn't know it was a Rubens.
Her ignorance was largely the fault of Vicenzio Fanti, one-time keeper of the 500 paintings of the noble house of Liechtenstein. In 1767, this diligent chap decided to catalogue their collection, which included "The Massacre". But he made a mistake. Perhaps foxed by the early Baroque style, he thought the painting was the work of Frans de Neve, an obscure follower of Rubens. To make matters worse, when the paintings were catalogued again, 13 years later, "The Massacre" was attributed to Jan van den Hoecke, a Viennese artist who worked in the style of the Flemish master.
And a Hoecke it remained, right up until 2001. Then a relative of our elderly Austrian took a photo of the painting to Sotheby's. The family had been trying to offload it for years. A few weeks later they succeeded.
Its true creator identified, "The Massacre" was bought for pound;49.5 million - the most expensive painting ever sold at a British auction.