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Giulio Licinio, The Rape of the Sabines

Key facts
Full title The Rape of the Sabines
Artist Giulio Licinio
Artist dates about 1527; died after 1584
Series Scenes from Ancient Roman History
Date made after 1566
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 35.6 × 153 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG644.1
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Rape of the Sabines
Giulio Licinio

The Rape of the Sabines is one of a series of paintings that show scenes from ancient Roman history. They were probably intended to be inserted into wall panelling. Three other pictures in the series are in the National Gallery’s collection: The Attack on Cartagena,The Continence of Scipio and The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

Shortly after the founding of Rome, the Romans tried to negotiate with the Sabines, who lived in the surrounding region, to secure wives, but the Sabines refused to allow their women to marry the Romans. The Romans then organised a festival to Neptune, and invited the Sabines. In Licinio’s painting, music is played on pipes as sacrifices are made at the altar of Neptune before crowds of visitors. As Romulus gives the order from his throne, the Roman soldiers on the right grab the Sabine women who struggle for freedom as the Romans fight off the Sabine men.

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Scenes from Ancient Roman History


These four pictures are from a series of paintings of scenes from ancient Roman history. They were made for the decoration of a room and were originally painted on panel but have since been transferred to canvas. Their size and horizontal format suggests they were probably intended to be inserted into wall panelling, as was common practice in Renaissance Venice.

The pictures in the National Gallery’s collection show: The Attack on Cartagena; The Continence of Scipio; The Rape of the Sabines; and The Intervention of the Sabine Women. Two other pictures from the same series, Coriolanus and Scipio rewarding the Soldiers, are in a private collection.