The Rape of the Sabine Women, Poussin

The Rape of the Sabine Women, Poussin
The Rape of the Sabine Women, Poussin

Just as the Mannerist movement arose during the last years of the Renaissance, calling into question the main characteristics of this movement, in the 17th century a new artistic current arose in parallel to the prevailing baroque aesthetics that moved away from the traditional sinuous forms or the drama of these scenes, was the classicist trend that emerged in parallel to the Caravaggio movement. In France specifically, the Caravaggio painters were more successful in the provinces than in the capital, Paris and the court in general, they opted for a more sober and simple style represented by artists such as Nicolás Poussin.


Poussin (1594 – 1665) was one of the greatest exponents of the classicist trend in France, although he lived and worked in Rome for most of his life to get to know the classical painters who inspired him so much. In his production, the great historical paintings stand out, such as the one we are analyzing here, The Rapture of the Sabine Women.

This is a large oil painting on canvas with a horizontal format that measures more than two meters wide and more than one and a half meters high. The work, which is currently exhibited in the Louvre Museum, dates from the 1930s, specifically from 1637, when Cardinal Aluigi Omodei commissioned Poussin to paint a history that recounted one of the main episodes of the founding ofRome.

According to the story, the Romans were so short of women that to ensure the continuity of their people, they decided to kidnap the Sabine women, the wives of the neighboring town. The Sabines were invited by the Romans to a great dinner and subsequently expelled the men from the city by kidnapping their women. This is precisely the moment chosen by the artist to represent him on his canvas:Romulus accompanied by two senatorsgives the signal and at that precise moment the Romans kidnap the Sabine women

The painting is very interesting due to the variety of forms and gestures that can be seen in the multiple characters that make up the scene. Each small group of characters seems to tell a story of its own, acting both individually and as a group in the overall context of the canvas.

The scene takes place outside the city and the artist has proposed three different vanishing points that converge towards the same place and that is perhaps too busy. The light that bathes the scene is orange typical of sunset.

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