The Intervention of the Sabine Women  

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The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1796-99, detail) by Jacques-Louis David

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Intervention of the Sabine Women is a 1799 painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David.

The work was considered when Jacques-Louis David was imprisoned in the Luxembourg Palace in 1795; he hesitated between representing either this subject or that of Homer reciting his verses to the Greeks. He finally chose to make a canvas representing the Sabine women interposing themselves to separate the Romans and Sabines, as a 'sequel' to Poussin's The Rape of the Sabine Women. Its realization took him nearly four years.

David had worked on it from 1796, when France was at war with other European nations after a period of civil conflict culminating in the Reign of Terror and the Thermidorian Reaction, during which David himself had been imprisoned as a supporter of Robespierre. After David’s estranged wife visited him in jail, he conceived the idea of telling the story, to honor his wife, with the theme being love prevailing over conflict. The painting was also seen as a plea for the people to reunite after the bloodshed of the revolution.

The painting depicts Romulus's wife Hersilia — the daughter of Titus Tatius, leader of the Sabines — rushing between her husband and her father and placing her babies between them. A vigorous Romulus prepares to strike a half-retreating Tatius with his spear, but hesitates. Other soldiers are already sheathing their swords. As you can see, the style of painting then, showed them to be naked, with the women wearing clothes.

The rocky outcrop in the background is the Tarpeian Rock, a reference to civil conflict, since the Roman punishment for treason was to be thrown from the rock. According to legend, when Tatius attacked Rome, he almost succeeded in capturing the city because of the treason of the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, governor of the citadel on the Capitoline Hill. She opened the city gates for the Sabines in return for 'what they bore on their arms.' She believed that she would receive their golden bracelets. Instead, the Sabines crushed her to death with their shields, and she was thrown from the rock which since bore her name.

In 1799 he exhibited at the Louvre in the old architecture firm. Despite the pay of its exhibition, Sabines attracted a large number of visitors until 1805. After the expulsion of artists including David from the Louvre, the picture could be found in the ancient church of Cluny, which he used as a workshop. In 1819 he sold the Sabines and his Léonidas at Thermopylae to the Royal Museums for 10,000 francs. First hung at the Palais du Luxembourg, the canvas returned to the Louvre in 1826 after the death of the painter.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Intervention of the Sabine Women" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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