Plutarch ('Lives' II, 14 and 19) relates that the Sabine tribe were invited to games in Rome; at a given signal from their king, Romulus, the Romans carried off the women. The background shows the later episode when the Sabines attacked the Romans and were defeated. The Romans and Sabines fight in the background beyond the rail that separates the audience from the games. The abduction is set before classical architecture, but the women wear 17th-century Flemish dress.
The painting was purchased from the Angerstein collection.