Tarquin and Lucretia1540s
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The story of the rape of Lucretia was one of the best-known episodes in the early history of Rome. It told how Sextus Tarquinius, brutal son of the tyrannical king, forced the virtuous wife Lucretia to accede to his lust by threatening that he would kill both her and her servant-boy if she refused, and afterwards claim that he had discovered them together in the act of adultery. To prevent this dishonour to her husband and family, Lucretia permitted herself to be raped, and was thereby able to tell her story and demand vengeance before she committed suicide.
As a kind of secular saint, Lucretia was represented quite frequently in Renaissance art. A number of German and French prints, such as the etching by Léon Davent, depicted the rape scene which inspired Titian's painting of the subject.