The Romans invited the neighboring Sabines with the intention of forcibly retaining their young women as wives. Romulus raised his cloak as the pre-arranged signal for the warriors to seize the women. The yellow armor worn by the man at the right is modeled after a Roman lorica, which was made of leather and reproduced the anatomy of the male torso. The painting belonged to the maréchal de Créquy, who was the French ambassador to Rome from June 1633 to July 1634.
According to legend, Romulus—having settled Rome with his warrior followers—attempted to negotiate marriages for them with the neighboring Sabine tribe. When this failed he organized a festival as a ruse and invited the Sabines to attend. He is shown at the left raising the hem on his cloak in a pre-arranged signal to his men, each of whom will carry off one of the Sabine maidens, bringing her back to Rome to provide the great city with future generations. The story is told by Plutarch (Life of Romulus, XIV) as well as Livy and Virgil.
Long considered a defining masterpiece of French classical painting, this work was produced in Rome for the maréchal Charles I de Créquy (d. 1638), whose collection also included Caravaggio's The Musicians (MMA 52.81). A second, quite different, treatment of the theme is in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. The chronological relationship of the two pictures was long a matter of debate. For example, Mahon (1960) saw the Metropolitan variant as earlier, dating it between 1634 and 1635, and placing the Paris picture about 1637–38, while Blunt (1960) considered the Metropolitan's example later, from about 1637, and dated the Louvre version 1635. We now know that the New York painting is the earlier of the two. It appeared in Créquy's posthumous inventory and must have been painted about 1633–34, when he served as ambassador in Rome. More recently (Sparti 2006) the discovery of a receipt dated 1635 for The Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), a painting long associated stylistically (by Blunt and Mahon among others) with the Louvre work, further suggests that the two pictures may have been produced in more or less the same time period, hatching in the artist's mind as compositional and expressive alternatives.
Poussin experimented with compositional variations in a number of preliminary drawings. Spatial and figural ideas for both paintings appear in drawings in the Uffizi, Florence, and the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth, both dated about 1633–34 by Rosenberg and Plat (1994). Two drawings in the Royal Collection, Windsor Castle, apparently studies for the New York composition, are dated about 1633 by Clayton (1995). Finally, Poussin's drawing from the early 1630s of Hercules and Antaeus (Ambrosiana Library, Milan) should be mentioned. An illustration for Leonardo da Vinci's treatise on painting, which greatly interested Poussin, it is closely related to one of the Windsor Castle drawings, Nude Man Lifting Up a Woman.
For the key figures of his New York composition Poussin borrowed motifs from a number of classical and classicizing sculptures, including the Roman statue of a Gaul Killing Himself and His Wife (The Ludovisi Gaul) in the Palazzo Altemps, Rome, and Giambologna's 1583 sculpture group of the subject (Rape of a Sabine Woman) in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, as well as from Pietro da Cortona's 1625 painting, Rape of the Sabines in the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Poussin's knowledge of the architecture of Vitruvius and Serlio is apparent in the settings of both variants.
Blunt (1966) sites four copies of this composition in early sales and inventories, but it is not always possible to tell which version is referred to. A copy of the MMA painting was in the Warschaw Collection, Los Angeles, in 1971, and a variation of the composition made by Poussin's friend, the painter Jacques Stella, is in the Princeton Art Museum. Jean Audran engraved the MMA composition in reverse.
[Mary Sprinson de Jesús 2010]
Maréchal Charles I de Créquy, Paris (from about 1633/34 [when he was ambassador to Rome]–d. 1638; inv. May 10, 1638, no. CXXX, valued at 350 livres); Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu, Paris (until d. 1642; his estate, 1642–50; inv., January 29, 1643, no. 1002 bis, as "Ravissement des Sabines du sieur Poussin de quatre piedz et demy de hault sur trois piedz et demy de long . . ." valued at 1600 livres tournois; his estate sale, Paris, January 7–February 8,1650, no. 1002 bis, sold for 1620 livres tournois to Aiguillon); his niece, Marie Wignerod de Pontcourlay, duchesse d'Aiguillon, le Petit Luxembourg, Paris (1650–d. 1675; sold by her heirs to de la Ravoye); Jean Néret de La Ravoye [or Ravoir], Paris (by 1685); Bénigne de Ragois de Bretonvilliers, Paris (by 1698–d. 1700); Jaques Meijers, Rotterdam (by 1714–22; cat., 1714, pp. 5–6; his sale, Rotterdam, September 9, 1722, no. 233, as the Rape of the Sabine Women by a capable follower of Poussin, for fl. 50); Henry Hoare, Stourhead, Bath, Wilts. (by 1762–d. 1785); the Hoare family, Stourhead (1785–1857); by descent to Sir Henry Ainslie Hoare, Stourhead (1857–83; his sale, Christie's, London, June 2, 1883, no. 63; to Lesser, for £35); [Lesser, London, 1883]; Sir Francis Cook, Doughty House, Richmond, Surrey (1883–d. 1901); his son, Sir Frederick Cook, Doughty House (1901–d. 1920); his son, Sir Herbert Cook, Doughty House (1920–d. 1939); his son, Sir Francis Ferdinand Maurice Cook (1939–46); [Pinakos, Inc. (Rudolf J. Heinemann), and Knoedler, New York, 1946; sold to MMA]
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Winter Exhibition," 1870, no. 89 (lent by Sir Henry Hoare, Bart., M.P.).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "French Art: 1200–1900," January 4–March 12, 1932, no. 137 (lent by Sir Herbert Cook, Bart.).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art Treasures of the Metropolitan," November 7, 1952–September 7, 1953, no. 114.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Exposition Nicolas Poussin," May–July 1960, no. 51.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Splendid Century, French Art: 1600–1715," March 8–April 30, 1961, suppl. no. 174.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Masterpieces of Painting in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 16–November 1, 1970, unnumbered cat. (p. 64).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 15, 1970–February 15, 1971, no. 293.
Paris. Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. "La Peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections américaines," January 29–April 26, 1982, no. 90.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," May 26–August 22, 1982, no. 90.
Art Institute of Chicago. "France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections," September 18–November 28, 1982, no. 90.
Inventaire de la collection de tableaux de Charles I de Créquy. May 10, 1638, no. CXXX [Archives Nationales, Paris, M.C., CXVII, 505, May 10, 1638; published in Boyer and Volf 1988; Getty no. F-255], lists a Rape of the Sabines by Poussin, valued at 350 livres.
Inventaire après décès du cardinal de Richelieu. January 29, 1643, no. 1002 [Archives Nationales, Paris; published in Honor Levi, "L'inventaire après décès du cardinal de Richelieu," Archives de l'art français, vol. 27, 1985, p. 62; Getty no. F-192], as "un aultre tableau de Ravissement des Sabines du sieur Poussin de quatre piedz et demy de hault sur trois piedz et demy de long garny de sa bordure de bois doré d'or bruny et poinctillé"; value estimated by Simon Vouet and Laurent de La Hyre as 1,600 livres tournois [apparently this picture, although the measurements do not agree].
Annotations des articles d'après le procès-verbal d'enchères [minutes of the Richelieu auction]. January 7–February 8, 1650 [Archives Nationales, Paris; published in Honor Levi, "L'inventaire après décès du cardinal de Richelieu," Archives de l'art français, vol. 27, 1985, p. 80, no. 1002], records a price of 608 livres tournois for no. 1002 [probably this painting; see Ref. Richelieu 1643], listing it among pictures that went to the duchesse d'Aiguillon.
André Félibien. Entretiens sur les vies et sur les ouvrages des plus excellens peintres anciens et modernes; avec la vie des architectes. Vol. 4, 2nd ed. 1685, p. 24 (Entretien VIII), mentions a large painting by Poussin of the Rape of the Sabines in the collection of the duchesse d'Aiguillon and, in his time, with de la Ravoir [Ravoye]; includes it with the group of paintings that he seems to date before 1637.
Germain Brice. Description nouvelle de ce qu'il y a de plus remarquable dans la ville de Paris. 3rd ed. Paris, 1698, vol. 1, p. 273, mentions a picture of this subject belonging to the duchesse d'Aiguillon, later to Jean Néret de la Ravoye, and then in the Bretonvilliers collection.
Florent Le Comte. Cabinet des singularitez d'árchitecture, peintre, sculpture, et graveure: ou, Introiduction a la conaissance des plus beaux arts, figurés sous les tableaux, les statuës, & les estampes. Vol. 3, Paris, 1700, vol. 3, p. 32.
Germain Brice. Description nouvelle de ce qu'il y a de plus remarquable dans la ville de Paris. 6th ed. Paris, 1713, vol. 2, p. 163 [see Ref. Blunt 1966], mentions a picture of this subject by Poussin in the Hôtel de Bretonvilliers [by this time the Louvre version was already in the Royal collection].
[Mr. Meyers]. Description du cabinet de tableaux de Mr. Meyers à Rotterdam. Rotterdam, 1714, pp. 5–6, claims that it was painted for the duchesse d'Aiguillon and passed through the Ravoir and Bretonvillers collections, being engraved by [Jean] Audran before coming to Rotterdam; provides the dimensions as 5 pieds, 1 pouce by 6 pieds, 10-1/2 pouces.
Pierre Guilbert. Description historique des château, bourg et forest de Fontainebleau. Paris, 1731, vol. 1, p. 117, wrongly identifies the painting formerly in the Aiguillon and de la Ravoir collections [our picture] with the version in the royal collection at Fountainbleau, 5 pieds x 7-1/2 pieds [now in the Louvre, see Ref. Blunt 1966].
Gerard Hoet. Catalogus of Naamlyst van Schilderyen, met derzelver pryzen, zedert een langen reeks van Jaaren zoo in Holland als op andere Plaatzen in het openbaar verkogt. Vol. 1, The Hague, 1752, p. 286, no. 223, contents of Meijer sale.
Horace Walpole. Journals of Visits to Country Seats. July 1762 [published in "Horace Walpole's Journals of Visits to Country Seats, &c.," Paget Toynbee, ed. Walpole Society 16 (1927–28), p. 41], lists it in the Henry Hoare collection, Stourhead.
Jacques-Antoine Dulaure. Nouvelle description des curiosités de Paris: Contenant l'histoire & la description de tous les etablissemens, monumens, edificies, anciens & nouveaux . . . 1787, vol. 2, p. 75 [see Ref. Blunt 1960], cites it erroneously as still in the Bretonvilliers collection.
[Pierre Marie] Gault de Saint-Germain. Vie de Nicolas Poussin, considéré come chef de l'école françoise. Paris, 1806, p. 10, discusses the Louvre version, but mistakenly traces it back to the Aiguillon and Ravoir collections.
C[harles]. P[aul]. Landon. Vies et oeuvres des peintres les plus célèbres de toutes les écoles. Vol. 3, Suite de l'oeuvre du Poussin. abridged and ill. edition. Paris, 1813, pl. 24 (line engraving in reverse by [Louis Marie?] Normand fils).
Sir Richard Colt Hoare. Two Studies from Nicolas Poussin from a Painting in the Possession of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, Bart, at Stourhead. London, 1814, pl. 2 (engraving of detail of this composition by Henry Moses) [see Ref. Hyde and Scott 1994].
John Smith. A Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. Vol. 8, London, 1837, p. 91, no. 169, wrongly identifies an engraving as by G[irard]., rather than Jean, Audran.
[Gustav Friedrich] Waagen. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854, vol. 3, p. 172.
Charles Le Blanc. Manuel de l'amateur d'estampes. Vol. 1, Paris, 1854, p. 103, no. 328, wrongly identifies Jean Audran's engraving as made after the Louvre picture.
A. Andresen. Nicolaus Poussin: Verzeichniss der nach seinen Gemälden gefertigten gleichzeitigen und späteren Kupferstiche. Leipzig, 1863, no. 315 [see Ref. Sterling 1955], identifies the engraving by Jean Audran as made after the MMA painting.
Edmond Bonnaffé. "Les collections des Richelieu." Gazette des beaux-arts, 2nd ser., 26 (1882), pp. 109–11, notes that the Abbé de Marolles mentioned in his memoires a "Rape of the Sabines" by Poussin in the collection of the duchesse d'Aiguillon at le Petit Luxembourg, sold by her heirs to Néret de la Ravoye.
Edmond Bonnaffé. Dictionnaire des amateurs français au XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1884, p. 345.
Georges Duplessis. Les Audran. Paris, , pp. 56, 61, ill. (engraving in reverse by Jean Audran).
Georges Lafenestre and Eugène Richtenberger. Le Musée national du Louvre. Paris, , p. 108, observe that it is not known which of the two versions—one with Cardinal Omodei, the other with the duchesse d'Aiguillon—came to the royal collection.
Otto Grautoff. Nicolas Poussin: Sein Werk und sein Leben. Munich, 1914, vol. 1, pp. 76, 139–44, 281; vol. 2, pp. 116–17, no. 71, ill., dates both the Louvre and Cook versions 1637–39.
Walter Friedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: Die Entwicklung seiner Kunst. Munich, 1914, pp. 37–39, 114, calls our picture (then in the Cook collection) the second version, identifying it with the picture mentioned by Félibien [Ref. 1685] as in the Aiguillon and de la Ravoye collections; dates the Louvre picture, from the collection of Cardinal Omodei, toward the end of the 1620's and the more mature Cook version between 1632–34.
Émile Magne. Nicolas Poussin, premier peintre du roi, 1594–1665. Brussels, 1914, pp. 94, 200, no. 54, ill. (second pl. following p. 70), wrongly identifies the picture "commissioned by" the duchesse d'Aiguillon with the version at the Louvre.
Maurice W. Brockwell inA Catalogue of the Paintings at Doughty House, Richmond, & Elsewhere in the Collection of Sir Frederick Cook, Bt., visconde de Monserrate. Ed. Sir Herbert Frederick Cook. Vol. 3, London, 1915, p. 49, no. 430, ill., mistakenly claims that it was painted for Cardinal Omodei.
R. H. Wile[n]ski. French Painting. Boston, 1931, pp. xxix, 70, pl. 34a.
Trenchard Cox. "A First View of the French Exhibition." The Connoisseur 89 (January 1932), pp. 7, 21, ill. (color).
Royal Academy of Arts. Commemorative Catalogue of the Exhibition of French Art, 1200–1900. London, 1933, pp. 34–35, no. 122.
Walter Friedlaender inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 325, opposes Grautoff's dating of the Louvre picture, and places it about 1630 and our version later.
Roger-Armand Weigert. Inventaire du fonds français, graveurs du XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1939, vol. 1, p. 166, no. 84, wrongly identifies the Louvre version as the prototype for Jean Audran's engraving.
Anthony Blunt. "The Heroic and the Ideal Landscape in the Work of Nicolas Poussin." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 7 (July–December 1944), p. 162, notes that although our picture and the Louvre's are set in an ancient town, Poussin is not at this point concerned with archaeological accuracy.
Anthony Blunt. The French Drawings in the Collection of His Majesty the King at Windsor Castle. Oxford, 1945, p. 39, dates it about 1637 and the Louvre version about 1633–35; considers the drawing at Windsor Castle a study for our painting and mentions other related drawings at Windsor, the Uffizi, and Chatsworth.
André Gide. Poussin. Paris, 1945, no. 23, ill. (overall and and detail).
Jane Costello. "The Rape of the Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 8 (April 1947), pp. 197–204, ill. (black and white; in color on cover), dates the version in the Louvre 1633–35 and this one two or three years later; finds sources of the composition in works of Giambologna and Pietro da Cortona and in the ancient statue of a Gaul killing himself and his wife in the Terme Museum, Rome; suggests the importance of Livy and Plutarch's writings in Poussin's interpretation of the subject and locates the source for the setting in Vitruvius, who speaks of the Roman custom of holding games in the forum and describes the adjoining basilica.
Walter Friedländer, in collaboration with Anthony Blunt, and Rudolph Wittkower. The Drawings of Nicolas Poussin: Catalogue Raisonné. Vol. 2, London, 1949, pp. 8–11, no. 117, pl. 93, date it about 1637, a few years after the Louvre version; list six Poussin drawings treating the subject, and suggest that only one of them, the Windsor drawing (no. 11903), be connected with our painting; view the drawings at Chatsworth (no. 861), Windsor (no. 11904) and the Uffizi (no. 900e) as related to the Louvre painting, and those in the Besançon museum and the Musée Condé, Chantilly, as not connected with either version and dating from the late forties; discuss connections with antique sculpture and the evolution of the composition in both painted versions.
Anthony Blunt. Art and Architecture in France, 1500 to 1700. Baltimore, 1953, pp. 186, 219 n. 201 [2nd ed., 1970, p. 169].
Fred Stephen Licht. Die Entwicklung der Landschaft in den Werken von Nicolas Poussin. Basel, 1954, pp. 117–21, discusses the quality of the space and color, making comparisons with the Louvre's version (called earlier) and seeing in ours a development toward a more homogeneous space and greater formal clarity.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. "A Guide to the Picture Galleries." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 12, part 2 (January 1954), pp. 4–5, ill. p. 26.
Charles Sterling. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of French Paintings. Vol. 1, XV–XVIII Centuries. Cambridge, Mass., 1955, pp. 70–72, ill., dates this painting sometime before 1637 and the Louvre version 1630 or shortly thereafter; sees the bright, clangorous color and the violently counterpoised frieze-like action as anticipating Poussin's second style; notes that the more ordered and relief-like composition with fewer, but more prominent figures in the MMA picture is result of gradual modification through the preliminary studies and the earlier version.
Georges Wildenstein. "Les graveurs de Poussin au XVIIe siècle." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 46 (September–December 1955), p. 252, ill. (no. 111, the engraving in reverse by Jean Audran), compare our painting with the engraving and suggest that it was slightly reduced on the top, bottom and at the right; wonders if ours was the picture, considered a copy, that appeared in the August 27, 1761 sale of C.T. [C.T., docteur en médicine; sale, Prault and Joullain, Paris, Lugt no. 1171] as no. 49; lists a copy in the collection of Claudine Stella in 1694.
Anthony Blunt. "The Leadership of Poussin:1. The Artist's Pictures Come to America." Art News 57, no. 9 (January 1959), p. 33 [reprint of his essay from 1959 exh. cat.].
Anthony Blunt and Walter Friedlaender inNicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Minneapolis, 1959, pp. 7–8, ill.
Theodore Rousseau Jr. The Splendid Century: French Art, 1600–1715. Exh. cat.Washington, 1960, supplement, p. 5, no. 174, dates it about 1637; notes that the architectural setting shows close knowledge of Vitruvius and Serlio; erroneously repeats Waterhouse's statement (Ref. 1960).
Anthony Blunt inExposition Nicolas Poussin. Exh. cat., Musée du Louvre. Paris, 1960, pp. 76–77, 86–87, 157, no. 51, ill., dates it about 1637, and the Louvre version about 1635; mentions among Poussin's models Giambologna's sculpture of the subject [Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence] and the sculpture group of a Gaul killing himself and is wife from the Ludovisi collection [Rome], which inspired the group on the right; considers the source of the Romulus figure in both paintings an oratorical scene found on the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius and on the Arch of Constantine; dates Audran's engraving after 1707.
Denis Mahon. "Poussin's Early Development: An Alternative Hypothesis." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), pp. 300, 303 nn. 97–98, dates it 1634–35, soon after the Adoration of the Magi (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden) of 1633, on the basis of its sharp contours, bright, but not strictly cold, colors, and a marked penchant towards frieze-like effects as well as its solid figures and emphatic movements; dates the Louvre version about 1637–38.
Henry Bardon. "Poussin et la littérature latine." Nicolas Poussin. Ed. André Chastel. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, pp. 128–29, traces the representation of Romulus on the tribune to Livy (1, 19, 14), noting that there is nothing comparable in Plutarch.
Pierre du Colombier. "The Poussin Exhibition." Burlington Magazine 102 (July 1960), p. 284, dates it after the Louvre version and places it in a group of powerful, relatively cold paintings set in elaborate architectural settings.
Jan Bialostocki. "Poussin et le 'Traité de la peinture' de Léonard: Notes sur l'état de la question." Nicolas Poussin. Ed. André Chastel. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, p. 138, fig. 107. (detail), notes that the motif of Hercules and Anteus from an illustration in Leonardo's notebooks appears in a similar form in Poussin's two Sabine pantings.
Ellis K. Waterhouse. "Poussin et l'Angleterre jusqu'en 1744." Nicolas Poussin. Ed. André Chastel. Paris, 1960, vol. 1, p. 293, erroneously suggests that the panting was in the sale of Mme Néret de la Ravoye in Paris in 1726.
Denis Mahon. "Mazarin and Poussin." Burlington Magazine 102 (August 1960), p. 354.
Denis Mahon. "Poussiniana: Afterthoughts Arising from the Exhibition." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 60 (July–August 1962), pp. 40, 92–93, 95, 99–101, 128, expands upon his reasons for dating it about 1634–35, i.e. earlier than the Louvre's version; finds our picture close to the late phase of Domenichino who was in Rome during the winter of 1634–35; comments on the artist's "anti-baroque" arrangement in our picture of a large number of figures in frieze-like planes rather than organizing them in depth; notes that during this period Form (disegno) was of paramount importance to the painter, and that localized color merely serves to emphasize it.
Pierre du Colombier. "Notes sur Nicolas Poussin." Gazette des beaux-arts, 6th ser., 63 (February 1964), pp. 81–88, 91, suggests that Cambiaso's ceiling fresco at the Villa Imperiale de Terralba, near Genoa, was a source for Poussin, referring to elements in the Louvre's version rather than to ours.
Denis Mahon. "A Plea for Poussin as a Painter." Walter Friedlaender zum 90. Geburtstag. Berlin, 1965, pp. 116–18, dates this picture about 1634–35, agreeing with Friedlaender [Ref. 1914] that it must be chronologically close to Dresden's Adoration of the Magi of 1633.
Margaretta M. Salinger. French Painting: The Seventeenth Century. New York, 1965, pp. 27, 43, no. 14, ill. (color slide in folder attached to front cover).
Anthony Blunt. The Paintings of Nicolas Poussin: A Critical Catalogue. [London], 1966, pp. 127–28, no. 180, ill., maintains a date of 1637, while dating the Louvre version about 1635; mentions Titian's "Marchese del Vasto Addressing His Troops" [Madrid, Prado] among its sources; remarks that the duchesse d'Aiguillon "almost certainly" inherited our painting from her uncle, Cardinal Richelieu, who, in turn, probably received it as a gift from Cardinal Francesco Barberini; lists four replicas and the engraving by Jean Audran.
Walter Fiedlaender. Nicolas Poussin: A New Approach. New York, 1966, pp. 19, 21, 32, 52–53, 106, 142–45, colorpl. 24, dates it about 1635, disagreeing with Mahon's [Ref. 1962] chronology and presenting reasons for our painting being the later version; comments on the enhanced historicity and ceremonial dignity of the MMA version, which he considers important in the development of high Baroque style.
Anthony Blunt. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1967, vol. 1, pp. 237, 151; vol. 2, pl. 113, places our picture and the "Capture of Jerusalem" (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) in a group related to Camillus and the Schoolmaster of Falerii (Louvre, Paris), painted in 1637.
Pierre Schneider. The World of Watteau, 1684–1721. New York, 1967, pp. 28–29, ill. (color).
H. W. Janson and Joseph Kerman. A History of Art and Music. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., , p. 147, ill., note that despite the intense emotional action, the artist's severe intellectual style suppresses its sensuous appeal.
Pierre Rosenberg. Mostra di disegni francesi da Callot a Ingres. Exh. cat., Galleria degli Uffizi. Florence, 1968, p. 26.
Kurt Badt. Die Kunst des Nicolas Poussin. Cologne, 1969, vol. 1, pp. 32–33, 73, 209, 211, 320–25, 328–29, 342, 422, 456, 459, 462, 550; vol. 2, pl. 106, colorpl. 199, dates it a couple of years after the Louvre version; considers Bernini's Abduction of Proserpina (Borghese Gallery, Rome) a source.
M[iklós]. Mojzer. The Warschaw Collection, Los Angeles, California. Los Angeles, 1971, unpaginated, discussed under no. 59, catalogues a copy after this picture.
Julius S. Held and Donald Posner. 17th and 18th Century Art: Baroque Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., , pp. 112, 152, pl. 13 (color), date it about 1636.
Jacques Thuillier. L'opera completa di Poussin. Milan, 1974, pp. 95–97, no. 88, ill., finds Mahon's dating more plausible than Blunt's.
J. G. van Gelder. "Het kabinet van de Heer Jaques Meyers." Rotterdams jaarboekje (1974), p. 172, fig. 48, publishes the Meyers collection catalogue of 1714.
Shuji Takashina. Poussin. Tokyo, 1977, p. 103, colorpl. 25.
Avigdor Arikha. "'L'enlèvement des Sabines' de Poussin." Le petit journal, n.s., no. 76 (1979), p. 1, ill., summarizes the dating controversy and comments that our version is closer than the one in the Louvre to the classical ideal of Sacchi and to Giovanni Bologna's sculpture.
Anthony Blunt. The Drawings of Poussin. New Haven, 1979, p. 41, notes that the Windsor Drawing (C.R. 117) corresponds in its general disposition more closely with our painting.
Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 311, 328, fig. 557 (color).
Doris Wild. Nicolas Poussin: Leben, Werk, Exkurse. Zürich, 1980, vol. 1, pp. 55, 69, 73, 76–77, 112, 149 n. 1, pp. 189, 209, 215; vol. 2, pp. 62–63, no. 62, ill., places this picture later than the version in the Louvre, connecting it with a payment of 160 scudi for an unidentified painting, recorded in Cardinal Francesco Barberini's Libro Maestro C, p. 156, and in his Giornale, January 11, 1636; rejects Blunt's suggestion that the payment was for the Triumph of Neptune in the Philadelphia Museum but concurs with Blunt's opinion that Barberini may have commissioned our picture as a gift to Richelieu; mentions it in relation to Poussin's study of Leonardo's treatise on human emotions and inner states.
Claire Pace. Félibien's "Life of Poussin". London, 1981, pp. 115, 155 n. 24.7, publishes and annotates Félibien's passage listing this painting [see Ref. Félibien 1685].
Hugh Brigstocke. "France in the Golden Age." Apollo 116 (July 1982), p. 11, dates it tentatively about 1634; notes that here the "multitudinous figures are not effectively organised into any coherent spatial pattern, and the dramatic impact is dissipated".
Pierre Rosenberg. France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth-century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1982, pp. 29, 32, 87–88, 94, 308–10, 321, 370, no. 90, ill. (color) [French ed., La peinture française du XVIIe siècle dans les collection américaines, Paris, 1982], dates this painting 1634–35 and the Louvre version 1637–38; based on an unpublished posthumous inventory of Cardinal Richelieu, includes tentatively the cardinal among its former owners, noting however, that our picture is considerably wider than the one listed in the inventory; asserts that its influence on Jacques Stella's version (Princeton Art Museum) further substantiates the idea that our picture may have belonged to Stella's patron, Richelieu.
Carl Goldstein. "Museum News: Seventeenth-century French Paintings." Art Journal 42 (Winter 1982), p. 329.
Oskar Bätschmann. Dialektik der Malerei von Nicolas Poussin. Zürich, 1982, pp. 77–78, fig. 47.
Avigdor Arikha. Nicolas Poussin: The Rape of the Sabines (The Louvre Version). Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Houston, 1983, pp. 8, 10, 12, 20, ill.
Marc Fumaroli. "Muta Eloquentia: La représentation de l'éloquence dans l'oeuvre de Nicolas Poussin." Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire de l'Art Français, année 1982, (1984), pp. 40–42, 48 n. 53, ill., considers it probably the earlier version; notes that Poussin was drawing on a precise code of gestures formulated by both classical and later orators.
Kimura Saburo inPoussin. Ed. Shuji Takashina. Tokyo, 1984, p. 84, figs. 27–28 (color; overall and detail).
Christopher Wright. Poussin Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné. New York, 1985, pp. 50, 51–53, 66, 176, 179, 188, 266, 275, 279, no. 84, pl. 34 (color), dates it to the late 1630s.
Honor Levi. "L'inventaire après décès du cardinal de Richelieu." Archives de l'art français, n.s., 27 (1985), pp. 62, 80, publishes the posthumous inventory of Cardinal Richelieu, dated January 29, 1643 [see Ref. Richelieu 1643], in which a Rape of the Sabines by Poussin is listed as no. 1002 bis.
Jean-Claude Boyer and Isabelle Volf. "Rome à Paris: Les tableaux du maréchal de Créquy (1638)." Revue de l'art no. 79 (1988), pp. 23, 32, 39 nn. 105–7, fig. 17, identify this painting as no. CXXX in the 1638 posthumous inventory of Charles I de Créquy (in which it is valued at 350 livres), and as the painting owned later by Cardinal Richelieu and the duchesse d'Aiguillon; note that Denis Mahon's early dating of the panting is confirmed, as it was probably made when Créquy was ambassador to Rome, between June 1633 and July 1634; comment that it must have been one of the first of Poussin's works to enter a major Parisian collection.
Jean-Jacques Lévêque. La vie et l'oeuvre de Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1988, p. 155, ill. (color).
Konrad Oberhuber. Poussin: The Early Years in Rome. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum. New York, 1988, pp. 38–42, 243, 248, ill. (color).
Alain Mérot. Nicolas Poussin. New York, 1990, pp. 71–73, 80, 129, 190, 193, 200–2, 285, no. 187, ill. (color, overall and detail), considers it Poussin's first version of this subject and erroneously states that Créquy was in Rome between June and July of 1634, when he would have acquired it [see Ref. Boyer and Volf 1988]; sees it as a turning point in Poussin's approach, in which he masters Alberti's principles of linear perspective without loosing anything of the surface density he achieved in his earlier works; relates the picture to Poussin's concept of the "Phrygian mode," which he considered appropriate to battle scenes; comments on the mask-like quality of the faces and notes that some of the animated figures in Poussin's illustrations to Leonardo's Treatise on Painting (Milan, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana) recur in this painting.
Oskar Bätschmann. Nicolas Poussin: Dialectics of Painting. London, 1990, pp. 67–68, 122–23, 142 n. 9, ill. (color), dates it about 1635 and considers it Poussin's second version; suggests that the artist is competing with Pietro da Cortona's painting of the same subject, but slightly earlier date (Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome); considers the division of the groups, their centrifugal dispersal and the empty center of the composition essential aspects of Poussin's interpretation of the event.
Hugh Brigstocke. A Loan Exhibition of Drawings by Nicolas Poussin from British Collections. Exh. cat., Ashmolean Museum. Oxford, 1990, discussed under nos. 28 and 29, fig. 14, dates it tentatively about 1634–35; identifies two Poussin drawings at Windsor Castle as preparatory studies for this painting.
Silvia Tomasi Velli. "L'iconografia del 'Ratto delle Sabine.' Un'indagine storica." Prospettiva 63 (July 1991), pp. 34–37, ill., dates the MMA painting 1638, after the Louvre version.
Colnaghi in America: A Survey to Commemorate the First Decade of Colnaghi New York. Ed. Nicholas H. J. Hall. New York, 1992, p. 33.
James Thompson. "Nicolas Poussin." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 50 (Winter 1992/93), pp. 2, 25–31, 33–35, 37. ill. in color (overall and details; detail on cover), dates it 1634; relates it to several contemporaneous examples of the subject.
David Carrier. Poussin's Paintings: A Study in Art-Historical Methodology. University Park, Pa., 1993, pp. 97, 126, 141–42, 177–78, 188, ill.
Alain Mérot. La peinture française au XVIIe siècle. Paris, 1994, pp. 118–19 [English ed., French Painting in the Seventeenth Century, New Haven, 1995].
Pierre Rosenberg inNicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. Paris, 1994, pp. 254–59, 486, ill., suggests that this picture was painted for maréchal Créqui during his diplomatic mission in Rome between June 1633 and July 1634, and in 1638 it was acquired by Cardinal Richelieu; tentaively dates the drawing in Florence about 1633 and notes that it contains elements utilized in both the MMA and the Louvre versions; considers the Chatsworth drawing an intermediary stage between the two versions.
Jacques Thuillier. Nicolas Poussin. Paris, 1994, pp. 40, 67, 253, 255, no. 103, ill., dates it tentatively 1633–34.
Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665: Catalogue raisonné des dessins. Milan, 1994, vol. 1, pp. 138, 140, 142, ill.
Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat. Nicolas Poussin: La collection du musée Condé à Chantilly. 1994, p. 116.
Julia Lloyd Williams. "Ale, Altruism and Art: The Benefactions of William McEwan." Apollo 139 (May 1994), p. 51, claims that the British collector William McEwan acquired this picture at some point in the last quarter of the 19th century, possibly through Adrian Lesser, his London based dealer.
Sarah Hyde and Katie Scott, ed. Prints (Re)presenting Poussin. Exh. cat., Courtauld Institute Galleries. London, 1994, p. 8, catalogue an etching (no. 8) by Henry Moses based on a detail of a group of figures from the right side of this painting.
Antoine Schnapper. Collections et collectionneurs dans la France du XVIIe siècle. Vol. 2, Oeuvres d'art, curieux du grand siècle. Paris, 1994, pp. 141, 145, 408, 417, pl. 40 [2nd rev. ed., "Curieux du grand siècle," Paris, 2005].
Pierre Rosenberg and Renaud Temperini. Poussin: "Je n'ai rien négligé". [Paris], 1994, pp. 85–86, 155, ill. (color).
Richard Verdi. Nicolas Poussin, 1594–1665. Exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts. London, 1995, pp. 189, 191, 211, ill., dates it 1633–34.
Andrée Hayum. "Poussin Peintre." Art in America 83 (May 1995), pp. 84–85, 133 n. 6.
André Chastel. L'art français: Ancien régime, 1620–1775. Paris, 1995, p. 144, dates it about 1635.
Martin Clayton. Poussin, Works on Paper: Drawings from the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Exh. cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery. London, 1995, pp. 84–88, ill. (color), considers two Windsor drawings (11903–4) of about 1633 studies for the MMA version, noting their particularly close relationship with the soldier lifting the woman in the air to the left; suggests that Poussin drew them from three-dimensional models he had constructed.
Hugh Brigstocke inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 25, New York, 1996, p. 388.
Hugh Brigstocke. "Variantes, copies et imitations. Quelques réflexions sur les méthodes de travail de Poussin." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organizé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Ed. Alain Mérot. Paris, 1996, vol. 1, p. 204.
Sebastian Schütze. "Aristide de Thèbes, Raphaël et Poussin. La représentation des 'affetti' dans les grands tableaux d'histoire de Poussin des années 1620–30." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organisé au musée du Louvre par le Service culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Ed. Alain Mérot. Paris, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 580, 599, ill.
Emmanuel Coquery. "Les oeuvres de Poussin dan les collections des peintres français sous Louis XIV." Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665): Actes du colloque organizé au musée du Louvre par le Service Culturel du 19 au 21 octobre 1994. Ed. Alain Mérot. Paris, 1996, vol. 2, p. 844.
Elizabeth Cropper and Charles Dempsey. Nocolas Poussin: Friendship and the Love of Painting. Princeton, 1996, p. 277.
Martin Clayton. "Nicolas Poussin 1594–1665. Catalogue raisonné des dessins." Burlington Magazine 138 (July 1996), p. 468 n. 77.
Elizabeth Cropper. "Ritorno al crocevia." Poussin et Rome: Actes du colloque à l'Académie de France à Rome et à la Bibliotheca Hertziana, 16–18 novembre 1994. Ed. Olivier Bonfait et al. Paris, 1996, pp. 258–60, 264.
Sybille Ebert-Schifferer. "L'expression controlée des passions: Le role de Poussin dans l'élaboration d'un art civilisateur." Poussin et Rome: Actes du colloque à l'Académie de France à Rome et à la Bibliotheca Hertziana, 16–18 novembre 1994. Ed. Olivier Bonfait et al. Paris, 1996, pp. 333, 347–48 n. 14.
Christoph Luitpold Frommel. "Poussin e l'architettura." Poussin et Rome: Actes du colloque à l'Académie de France à Rome et à la Bibliotheca Hertziana, 16–18 novembre 1994. Ed. Olivier Bonfait et al. Paris, 1996, p. 122.
Yona Pinson. "Un Language muet—métaphore et morale dan les éléments architecturaux et scénographiques de Nicolas Poussin." Artibus et Historiae no. 36 (1997), p. 118, comments on the symbolic evokation of power of the two columns flanking Romulus.
Hidenori Kurita et al., ed. Poussin and Raphael. Exh. cat., Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art. Nagoya, 1999, pp. 118, 136, 164, 167–68, no. 28–21, ill. (engraving in reverse by Jean Audran), stress Poussin's engagement with Marcantonio's print of The Massacre of the Innocents, designed by Raphael, in his creation of this dynamic composition.
Judith Bernstock. Poussin and French Dynastic Ideology. Bern, 2000, pp. 179–80, 181–82, ill., associates the prominent role of Romulus in the painting with the enhanced international power of the French king, who was celebrated in 1634 as the new king of the Romans; notes that Charles, maréchal de Créquy, who probably comissioned the MMA painting in 1633–34 while he was the French ambassador in Rome, was also a prominent commander in Louis XIII's army; remarks that by borrowing from the Gaul Killing Himself and His Wife [Museo Nazionale, Rome], Poussin symbolically transforms dying ancestor of the French into an insuperable fighter, probably with the intention of flattering his patron.
Fidel Fajardo-Acosta. "Reading the Visual Arts: Textuality and Historicity in Poussin's Rape of the Sabine Women." Exemplaria 12, no. 2 (2000), pp. 491–95, 499–500, 502–21, fig. 1, discusses "the complexity of the painting's messages"; dates the Louvre version about 1635 and ours about 1637, and sees the subject as "a historical visual discourse . . . associated with religious persecution and its justification," or the efforts of the Catholic Church to contain the Reformation; believes that in our picture Poussin has employed idealization and a greater abstraction to lessen the emotional intensity of the Louvre version; sees a pattern of "inclined, downward-pointing crosses" among the figures and understands this as relating to Saint Peter's upside-down crucifixion, and therefore to the papacy itself.
Todd P. Olson. Poussin and France: Painting, Humanism, and the Politics of Style. New Haven, 2002, pp. 8, 61, 68, 151, 172, 246 n. 27, fig. 10 (color).
W. H. Bailey. Defining Edges: A New Look at Picture Frames. New York, 2002, pp. 48–49, ill. (color), discusses the classical motifs on its nineteenth-century frame, finding them in harmony with the painting; illustrates color details of the frame.
Hans Raben. "'An Oracle of Painting': Re-reading Poussin's Letters." Simiolus 30, no. 1/2 (2003), pp. 37, 50, ill., notes that the dramatic expressiveness of the scene is inspired by Ovid rather than by the Roman historians.
Christopher Allen. French Painting in the Golden Age. London, 2003, pp. 60–61, ill. (color).
Peter Joch. Methode und Inhalt: Momente von künstlerischer Selbstreferenz im Werk von Nicolas Poussin. PhD diss., Technische Hochschule, Aachen. Hamburg, 2003, pp. 39–45, no. 4, pl. 16.
Donatella Livia Sparti. "Poussin's Two Versions of 'The Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem' and Other Early Paintings." Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien 6/7 (2004–5), pp. 188–91, 194, 196–97, fig. 7 (color), publishes documentation of payment for the Barberini version of Poussin's "Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem" (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) on January 11, 1636, dating it therefore to 1635; due to stylistic and compositional similarities of the Vienna picture with the Louvre Rape of the Sabines—traditionally dated 1637/38—places the latter instead about 1633/34; concludes that the MMA version, listed in Créquy's posthumous inventory of 1638, must date from the time Créquy was ambassador in Rome, from June 1633 to July 1634, and suggests the two versions were painted within a short period of one another; notes that it is impossible to say with certainty which was painted first, but is inclined to believe the Louvre picture precedes the MMA version.
Elisabeth Hipp. Nicolas Poussin: Die Pest von Asdod. Hildesheim, 2005, pp. 145, 200, 258, 261.
Gilles Chomer Sylvain Laveissière inJacques Stella (1596–1657). Exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyons. Paris, 2006, p. 184, note that the figure group with the older male Sabine attempting to restrain a Roman warrior at the far right reappears at the far left in Stella's painting of this subject (Art Museum, Princeton University), which they date about 1650; add that Stella would have known the MMA canvas, which was painted for the maréchal de Créquy, one of Stella's patrons, while Créquy was ambassador to Rome between 1633 and 1634, and which Richelieu acquired in 1638.
Jonathan Unglaub. Poussin and the Poetics of Painting: Pictorial Narrative and the Legacy of Tasso. Cambridge, 2006, pp. 2, 5, 52, 169–72, 198, 250–51 n. 33, fig. 54 (color).
Marc Fumaroli. De Rome à Paris: Peinture et pouvoirs aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Dijon, 2007, p. 204.
Christopher Wright. Poussin: Paintings, a Catalogue Raisonné. rev. and updated ed. London, 2007, pp. 111, 113, 121, 288, 297, 300, no. 84, ill. (color).
Keith Christiansen. "The Critical Fortunes of Poussin's Landscapes." Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2008, p. 37 n. 115 [Spanish ed., "Poussin y la naturaleza," Bilbao, 2007], notes that examination of this painting at the MMA reveals that Poussin transferred the staging of this scene to the canvas by means of an Albertian perspective grid.
Tony Green. Poussin's Humour. Preston Bowyer, England, 2009, pp. 115–16.
Lisa Beaven. An Ardent Patron: Cardinal Camillo Massimo and His Antiquarian and Artistic Circle. London, 2010, p. 65.
Kathryn Calley Galitz. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Masterpiece Paintings. New York, 2016, pp. 279, 286, no. 226, ill. pp. 222–23, 286 (color).
The frame is from France and dates to about 1660–70 (see Additional Images, figs. 1–4). This extremely fine Louis XIV carved frame is made of walnut and constructed with mitred corners secured with tapered keys. The sight edge ornament is comprised of running acanthus leaves and shells with a narrow fillet. A small hollow and step rises to a gentle ogee magnificently carved with twenty pairs of stylized Persian lions, their forelegs, wings, and lower bodies evolving into scrolling acanthus leaves. They face backward toward carved floral pairs in the form of roses, jonquils, daffodils, chrysanthemums, sunflowers, and lilies and flank a heart-shaped shield. Fully articulated acanthus leaves span each corner while the hollow at the outside terminates with dentil carved flutes and husks at the back edge. The frame is thought to be made for the painting when it was in the collection of the duchesse d’Aiguillon for le Petit Luxembourg in Paris. The extremely skillful later gilding on its thin gesso layer with an even more recent heavy ochre toner layer may date from the eighteenth or nineteenth century during ownership by the Hoare family at Stourhead, Wiltshire, UK.
[Timothy Newbery with Cynthia Moyer 2017; further information on this frame can be found in the Department of European Paintings files]
Artist: Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome)Date: ca. 1635–36Medium: Pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, over faint black chalk underdrawingAccession: 1998.225On view in:Not on view