Hendrik van Balen’s interpretation of the Rape of the Sabines in a newly discovered work
Fig. 9 / Pietro da Cortona, Rape
of the Sabines, ca. 1627-1629,
oil on canvas, 280.5 x 426 cm,
Rome, Pinacoteca Capitolina.
Rubens had encouraged his brother Philip to act
more decisively in his pursuit of Maria de Moy,
as he reported in a letter. “Courtship,” he wrote,
“should be conducted with fervour (“con ogni fervore”),
not coolness.”54 Fervour does not imply force, but
Rubens’s art certainly celebrates the latter. McGrath
concludes, concerning Rubens’s Boreas and Orithyia,
“Again the subject is the resort to force, exerted in
pursuit of love by an impulsive and impatient lover.”55
For McGrath, the Romans in Rubens’s Rape of the
Sabines in London, dated ca. 1635-1640, compel the
women to go with them, but they also exhibit love
and tenderness (fig. 10).
Ethan Matt Kavaler stresses that Rubens viewed
the Rape of the Sabines as an example of ethical
statecraft. Kavaler argues that the painting in London
reflects Plutarch’s statement that the Romans showed
restraint and were not “incited to this violence by
lust or injustice, but by their desire to conciliate and
unite the two nations in the strongest ties”.56 Indeed,
Rubens’s painting in London emphasizes Romulus, who
sits at the upper right in a controlled but commanding
posture. Kavaler further notes that images of the Rape
of the Sabines were sometimes displayed in spaces
that were associated with governance. Giambologna’s
sculpture, commissioned by Francesco I de’ Medici,
Hendrik van Balen’s interpretation of the Rape of the Sabines in a newly discovered work
Fig. 10 / Peter Paul Rubens,
Rape of the Sabines, probably
1635-1640, oil on oak, 169.9
x 236.2 cm, London, The
National Gallery.


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