Sebastiano Ricci’s "Battle of the Romans and the Sabines" continues the legend of Rome’s foundation. Three years after the rape of the Sabines, their fathers and brothers attempt to avenge the injustice. Battle is engaged before the gates of Rome, but the women do not simply stand and watch. Not prepared to lose their next of kin from whatever side in a self-righteous bloodbath, they throw themselves into the battle to separate the combatants. The dynamism that events confer on these figures is not just a characteristic of Baroque painting, but of sculpture, too. Ricci’s paintings can thus be readily compared with contemporary sculptures such as Diana and Callisto by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi. Their graceful gestures appear choreographed, their bodies captured in mid-movement. Both artists express this fleeting quality through erratic poses created by markedly shifting the figures’ centres of gravity outwards. The fluttering garments take up the movement and further reinforce it. Ricci’s painting also derives part of its inner tension from the contrast between the men’s raw violence and the women’s idealized, vulnerable beauty despite their fear and terror.
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Sebastiano Ricci
Battle of the Romans and the Sabines, c. 1700
Oil on canvas
height 197 cm, width 303 cm
Inv.-No. GE243
Provenance: 1819 acquired by Prince Johann I von Liechtenstein from Johann Querci with the Rape of the Sabine Women (GE 245)
Further works on display
The Rape of the Sabine Women, c. 1700
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