Artist: Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Urbino 1483–1520 Rome)

Date: 1508–10

Medium: Pen and brown ink over black chalk, partially incised with a stylus (recto); rubbed with black chalk for transfer (verso)

Dimensions: 15-5/8 x 11-1/2 in. (39.7 x 29.2 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.153


This drawing, produced by Raphael in his early Roman period, reveals his arresting command of antique Roman sculpture and literary sources. According to Ovid's Fasti and Livy's History of Rome, the noble matron Lucretia committed suicide after being raped by Sextus, son of the tyrant Tarquin the Proud. Her husband and, later, Junius Brutus avenged her honor by leading a revolt that helped institute the republic as a form of government. Raphael recast the heroic early Roman legend to focus on the rhetorical gesture of Lucretia as a model of sublime virtue, heightening the drama of her death by depicting her about to plunge the dagger into her chest. The sculptural grandeur and monumentality of form speak to Raphael's encounter with Roman antiquity soon after his arrival in the Eternal City in 1508. The proportions of the idealized figure appear to be those of the canon of antique sculpture, though she is not based directly on a Roman statue. The style and pen-and-ink technique (the outlines are indented with a stylus for transfer) are closely connected to the large-scale preliminary studies for the figures in the Parnassus and School of Athens frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura at the Vatican.