Tuesday, June 20, 2023



THE ABDUCTION OF SABINE WOMEN... by Nicolas Poussin ( 1594-1665) ..Oil on canvas, 159 x 206 cm

( On display inside  the Louvre Museum( Paris) , Richelieu Wing,  room 828) 

Sabines were  an ancient Oscan-speaking people of the central Apennines in Italy, northeast of Rome, who feature in early Roman legends and also in the Bible . They were forcibly incorporated into the Roman state .Legend says that the Romans abducted Sabine women to populate the newly built Rome. According to scholars and historians, the sad event of rape and abduction of the Sabine women took place just a few days after the foundation of Rome in the 8th century BC. The alleged crime was committed by Romulus, the first King and founder of Rome, and his male followers

This  abduction  is described by several classical writers. While accounts vary, key details are consistent: Romulus, founder and then king of Rome, had built an impressive city, but there was a shortage of women. He invited the Sabines, who lived in the mountains nearby, to bring their wives and daughters to a festival of chariot racing festival , intending to seize the unmarried women.
When the festival was in full swing, Romulus gave the signal to his men and they immediately abducted the Sabine women — overpowering the Sabine men. The historian Livy counts as many as thirty women to have been kidnapped and raped by the Romans on that day, all of whom are said to be virgins, except Hersilia, who later became Romulus’ wife and played an important part in ending the subsequent conflicts.
 In the painting, one can see the women reeling  back in distress, while in the foreground is a close-up view of some  victims being physically  carried away. 

 The painting was done in 1633 or 1634 using oil on canvas  This dramatic story gave Poussin the opportunity to display his command of gesture and pose and his knowledge of ancient sculpture and architecture. The painting belonged to the maréchal de Créquy, who was the French ambassador to Rome from June 1633 to July 1634. Later , it remained in the custody of   Cardinal Richelieu.Cardinal Richelieu was a French clergyman, nobleman, and statesman, serving as King Louis XIII’s Chief Minister (sometimes also called First Minister) from 1624. He sought to consolidate royal power and strengthen France’s international position. 

Nicolas Poussin ( 1594-1665) was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style. As artist, he spent  major part of his life in Rome.Poussin is admired for his strong use of colour and his inclination to prioritise the cerebral over the emotional. He was able to demonstrate that art could be an intellectual pursuit and through his layering of meaning he produced paintings of extraordinary dramatic depth and allegorical complexity. His another masterpiece titled ,' Four Seasons'  is also on display in the Louvre Museum. In 2022, I  saw another version of the "Abduction of Sabine Women " by Poussin on display in the  Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York.The incident of 'Abduction of Sabine Women'  is referenced numerous times throughout history and it inspired various artworks by legendary artists like Pablo Picasso, Rubens, 
Andrea Andreani and Giambologna.

I have cut some segments from the painting . These segments may help the viewer to appreciate this work . I found a crowd near this painting. This painting remains one amongst some masterpieces on display in the Louvre Museum.

( Avtar Mota)

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