Rape of the sabine women

   The story of the rape of the Sabine women stems from the writings of the ancient historian Livy. Having founded Rome, Romulus and his men were in need of women to populate the city and ensure its growth. They invited the Sabines to a festival in honor of Neptune and, on the signal given by Romulus, the Romans abducted the women and expelled the men. The Sabines declared war on the Romans but, during battle, their women stood between the two armies and persuaded them to lay down their weapons. Nicolas Poussin painted the Rape of the Sabine Women (1635; New York, Metropolitan Museum) as an orchestrated event filled with theatrical gestures. His work was influenced by Pietro da Cortona's version (c. 1629; Rome, Capitoline Museum), which presents a more animated composition with lush brushwork. Giovanni da Bologna depicted only one woman being abducted by two males (1581-1582; Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi) and viewed the scene as an opportunity to render one of his complex serpentine compositions. Finally, Peter Paul Rubens rendered the scene (1635-1637; London, National Gallery) as a chaotic piling of desperate figures who form a sharp diagonal from upper left to lower right, in the center a woman pleading to Romulus for the Sabines' release.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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