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Hersilia Surrounded by the Sabine Women and Their Children

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

The idea for David’s first ambitious history painting of the post-revolutionary era, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, came to him in a prison cell in 1794. The subject—focused on the reconciliation of warring tribes—is taken from Roman history, but the painting was clearly intended as a commentary on the fractured state of French society.

Three years after the abduction of their daughters and sisters, the Sabine men attacked Rome in retaliation. Hersilia, daughter of the Sabine king, occupies the center of the composition, her pale arms extended in a gesture that immobilizes the fighting. She is encircled by Sabine women who rush onto the battlefield and thrust their babies before the soldiers as proof of their familial bonds.

Hersilia Surrounded by the Sabine Women and Their Children, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Black chalk, reworked in areas in pen and brown ink, squared in black chalk, irregularly cut

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