The Rape of Tamar

Eustache Le Sueur French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 622

Classical formal features—solid forms, careful balance, and harmonious colors—temper the violence of this scene, which probably represents the biblical Old Testament character Tamar about to be raped by her half-brother Amnon. A freeze‑frame effect is achieved through staid yet dramatic gestures that Le Sueur derived from classical sculpture. They align perfectly with how fellow painter Charles Le Brun would soon theorize the best methods of representing historical narrative. Shortly after this work was painted, in 1648, both artists became founding members of the French Royal Academy, which sought to elevate the perception of painters’ intellectual abilities and social position.

The Rape of Tamar, Eustache Le Sueur (French, Paris 1616–1655 Paris), Oil on canvas

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