NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Abduction of the Sabine Women
The Abduction of the Sabine Women
Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665)
Oil on canvas; 60 7/8 x 82 5/8 in. (154.6 x 209.9 cm)
Nicolas Poussin produced two major works telling the the story of The Rape of the Sabine Women, an episode in the legendary early history of Rome narrated by Livy and Plutarch ('Lives' II, 15 and 19). The other version, produced in 1637-8, now at the Musée du Louvre, shows a more developed architectural setting. This one belonged to the he maréchal de Créquy and seems to date about June 1633 to July 1634, when he was French ambassador to Rome.
The Rape, from the Latin rapere, meaning to grab, or steal (and later translating into sexually assaulting, presumably from the idea of stealing virtue), refers to an even that occured shortly after Rome's founding by Romulus and a mostly male group of followers. Seeking wives to found families, the Romans negotiated with the neighboring Sabines, who refused to allow their woman to marry Romans for fear of a rival culture. Faced with the extinction of their communicty, Romulus invited the Sabines to a festival of Neptune Equester. At the meeting Romulus raised his cloak as a prearranged signal for the warriors to seize the women. According to Livy no sexual assault took place. On the contrary, Romulus offered them free choice and promised civic and property rights. The women accepted Roman husbands, but the Sabines went to war with the Romans. The conflict was eventually resolved when the women, who now had children by their Roman husbands, intervened in a battle to reconcile the warring parties. During the Renaissance the subject was popular as a story symbolising the central importance of marriage for the continuity of families and cultures.
Poussin depicts Romulus, at the left, giving the signal for the abduction. The mother, her babies, and an old woman in the foreground were captured accidentally in the turmoil. The yellow armor worn by the man at the right is modeled after a Roman "lorica," which was made of leather and reproduced the anatomy of the male torso.
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1946 (46.160)
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National Historic Register #86003556