The Rape of the Sabine Women (Latin: Sabinae raptae) is an episode in the fabled history of Rome, traditionally dated to 750 BC, in which the first generation of Roman guys got wives for themselves from the nearby Sabine families. The English word rape is a standard translation of the Latin raptio, which in this context means "abduction" rather than its common modern significance in English language of sexual misdemeanor. Recounted by Livy and Plutarch (Parallel Lives II, 15 and 19), it supplied a theme for Renaissance and post-Renaissance works of art that joined a suitably inspiring case of the hardihood and courage of early Romans with the chance to depict multiple figures, including heroically semi nude figures, in intensely fervent fight. Similar topics from Classical Antiquity are the Battle of Centaurs and the Lapiths and the theme the conflict of Theseus with the Amazons.
The sculpture by Giambologna (1579?1583) that was reinterpreted as expressing this topic depicts three figures (a guy lifting a girl into the air while a second man crouches) and was carved from an individual block of marble. This sculpture is considered Giambologna's masterpiece. Initially meant as simply a demonstration of the artist's skill to create a sophisticated sculptural group, its subject matter, the infamous rape of the Sabines, had to be devised after Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, decreed that it be put on public display in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria, Florence. True to mannerist thickly packaged, intertwined ambitious overinclusive attempts and figural compositions, the statue depicts a dynamic panoply of emotions, in poses that provide multiple perspectives. When compared with the calm single-perspective pose of the nearby Michelangelo's David (also uploaded to MyMiniFactory and Scan The World), ended almost 80 years before, this statue is infused with the dynamics that lead towards Baroque, but the tight, uneasy, verticality? Self imposed by the virtuosic limitation of the writer to a makeup that could be carved from just one block of marble? Lacks the angled pushes that Bernini would reach forty years afterwards with his Rape of Proserpina and Apollo and Daphne at the Galleria Borghese, Rome.
Opposite Benvenuto Cellini's statue of Perseus, the planned site for the sculpture, prompted suggestions the group should exemplify a motif associated with the former work, including the rape of Andromeda by Phineus. The individual rapes of Helen and Proserpina were mooted as potential topics. It was finally determined the sculpture was to be identified as among the Sabine virgins.
The work is signed OPVS IOANNIS BOLONII FLANDRI MDLXXXII ("The work of Johannes of Boulogne of Flanders, 1582"). An early preparatory bronze featuring just two figures is in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte in Naples. The scheme, this time with a third figure was subsequently revised by Giambologna, in two wax models in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The artist's full scale gesso for the finished sculpture, performed in 1582, is on display at theAccademia Gallery in Florence.
Bronze decreases of the sculpture, copied by others and created in Giambologna's own studio, were a staple of connoisseurs' groups into the 19th century.
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