"The Rape of the Sabine Women", like its companion piece the "Battle of the Romans and the Sabines" (GE 243), was probably painted c. 1700 and depicts an episode from Roman history: by false pretences, Romulus lured the daughters of the Sabines to Rome and had them raped by his soldiers to secure the continued existence of the newly founded city. The men of Rome, it seems, had been unable to find any women willing to marry them! The story of the rape is told essentially through five couples, arranged symmetrically as if on a stage. Rather like in a study of movement, the same motif is shown from various viewpoints. Ricci modelled his central couple on Gianlorenzo Bernini’s marble group Pluto and Proserpina (Galleria Borghese, Rome). With his variation on the theme, the artist showed himself to be a match for that sculpture’s multiple viewpoints. His classical view of art placed beauty of pose above the realistic expression of pain. The women’s helplessness is translated into graceful gestures, exaggerated in a way that harks back to Mannerist painting of the late sixteenth century. The glowing colours reveal Ricci’s examination of the work of Paolo Veronese, while the pastel illumination of his palette already anticipates the Rococo. Ricci marked the start of developments in seventeenth-century Venetian painting: where his brushstrokes become sketchy, they employ thick impasto.
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Sebastiano Ricci
The Rape of the Sabine Women, c. 1700
Oil on canvas
height 197 cm, width 304 cm
Inv.-No. GE245
Provenance: 1819 acquired by Prince Johann I von Liechtenstein from Johann Querci with the Battle of the Romans and the Sabines (GE 243)
Further works on display
Battle of the Romans and the Sabines, c. 1700
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