POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

The Rape of the Sabine Women I

Oil on canvas, 154,6 x 209,9 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Although Poussin spent almost the whole of his working life in Rome, he was the greatest as well as the most influential painter of 17th-century France. His authoritative interpretations of ancient history and Greek and Roman mythology left their mark on European art down to the time of David and Ingres. Here he shows Romulus, ruler of the newly founded city of Rome, giving a prearranged signal with his cloak for the Roman soldiers to carry off the Sabine women to become their wives, thereby establishing themselves permanently in their new home. The Sabine men, who had come unarmed to what they thought would be a religious celebration, are put to flight. The subject enabled Poussin to display to the full his unsurpassed archaeological knowledge and his mastery of dramatic interpretation.