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THE RAPE OF THE SABINES.
Rome, while in her infancy, being surrounded by neighbours whom she feared, meditated their subjugation. This design she early manifested by continual aggressions. 'he Sabines, a people more temperate, but no less courageous than the Romans, were often the object of their insult. The rape of their women tended in a particular manner to sow the seeds of dissension among the two nations. Romulus having frequently solicited their daughters in marriage for his soldiery, the senate rejected this means of alliance with disdain. The Romans dissembled their revenge, resolving, at the same time, to obtain by force that which had been refused by entreaty. To accomplish this project Romulus caused a fête to be celebrated in honour of Neptune, which the Sabines and the people of Csenina attended. After having liberally regaled them, they were seated in the most convenient spot to observe the entertainment. But while attentive in viewing the diversions of the festival, »the Romans, by order of Romulus, threw themselves sword in hand into the crowd, carried away the virgins, and drove their fathers and mothers out of the city.
This historical trait has been adopted by various painters, but no one has handled it so happily as Poussin. This great painter has varied all the expressions of the numerous figures which form this composition with an art he exclusively possessed.
Accompanied by two senators, Romulus, in an heroic and imposing attitude, lifts his cloak as a signal for the attack. At this moment all is confusion. A Roman soldier arrests a female flying with her husband. Another woman, seized by a warrior, defends herself with one hand, and raises the other to heaven, which she appears to invoke in vain. In the midst of these two groups, upon a distant ground, a mother is beheld upon her knees, before Romulus, imploring the restoration of her daughter, whom a Roman has just taken from her. On the other side of the picture a girl shelters herself in the arms of her mother, while she repels a young warrior, who manifests an expression rather of love than desire.
It would exceed our limits to enter into a detail of the beauties of this composition. The moment of anxiety and agitation is most ably represented. Poussin, however, may be censured forgiving an air of magnificence to the building of the city, about which, yj its beginning, northing ostentatious could appear.