Skip to main content
The Rape of the Sabines (after the signal)
Domenico Morone
/

This is the second of two panels from a cassone (a large chest made for a domestic setting), which depict one of the founding stories of ancient Rome. When the Romans couldn't find wives, their leader Romulus came up with a devious plan: he invited the neighbouring Sabines to attend some celebratory games so that, at a given signal, the Romans could abduct the young Sabine women.

Romulus appears on a green dais in the centre of this picture: he has given the signal by standing up and drawing his cloak around him. The young men in his entourage are dragging away their guests, while others, presumably more Romans, seem to be rushing to join the action; one climbs a ladder to get up to the stands.

In spite of its unpromising start, the story ended peaceably: the Sabine women accepted their new husbands and persuaded their families to do so also. They were held up as examples of feminine peacemaking and appropriate role models for Renaissance wives.

Key facts
Artist Domenico Morone
Artist dates about 1442 - after 1518
Full title The Rape of the Sabines (after the signal)
Series Two Cassone Panels with the Rape of the Sabines
Date made about 1490
Medium and support Tempera on spruce
Dimensions 45.4 x 49.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1886
Inventory number NG1212
Location in Gallery Not on display
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download a low-resolution copy of this image for personal use.

License this image

License and download a high-resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low-resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low-resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

Two Cassone Panels with the Rape of the Sabines

/

These panels come from the front of a cassone, a large chest that was often painted with narrative scenes. Such chests were widely made throughout Italy from about 1400 to the early sixteenth century. They were often associated with marriages, and were one of the items of furniture that a groom was expected to acquire for his home in expectation of his bride.

The decoration of cassoni often reflected this link, providing what were felt to be examples of appropriate behaviour for husbands, wives and children, drawn from classical literature or history. The tale shown here, of how the early Romans abducted women when they couldn't find wives, was part of ancient Roman history. It was recounted by Livy and Plutarch, both of whom were translated into Italian in the fifteenth century.

The panels are painted on two horizontal planks of spruce. They have been cut along their side edges and may originally have been joined together.

;