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Marcus Curtius
Possibly by Bacchiacca
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According to Roman mythology, an earthquake in 362 BC caused a deep pit to open up in the Roman Forum. The citizens of Rome tried in vain to fill it and were advised by the oracle that the gods demanded Rome’s most precious possession. A young soldier named Marcus Curtius knew that this was youth and the courage of the Romans. He rode his horse into the chasm, which closed over them both, so saving Rome.

In this panel, Marcus Curtius raises his dagger as he urges his rearing horse towards the flaming chasm. The small size of the painting and its decorative quality suggest that it may have been made to embellish a piece of furniture, possibly a chest, in a domestic interior. Bacchiacca, who may have painted the panel, was involved in the decorations for the Borgherini Bedchamber, illustrating the life of Joseph (also in the National Gallery’s collection), which was probably the most important commission for a Florentine interior at the time.

Key facts
Artist Possibly by Bacchiacca
Artist dates 1495 - 1557
Full title Marcus Curtius
Date made probably about 1520-30
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 25.4 x 19.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG1304
Location in Gallery Not on display
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