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“The Abduction of the Sabine Women”

Week 15/52

The Rape of the Sabine Women (“The Abduction of the Sabine Women”)

Giambologna’s Greatest Marble Sculpture

Carved from a single block of stone, this powerful marble sculpture by the Flemish artist Giambologna (1579–1583) (Johannes of Boulogne), is surely one of the finest works in the history of sculpture. Regarded as a technical as well as a creative masterpiece, the statue combines the classical nude forms ofGreek sculpture with the dynamism of Mannerism. Although, being a work of Roman mythology, it was not part of the campaign ofreligious art used by the Counter-Reformation,The Rape of the Sabine Women perfectly expresses the deep uncertainties of the late 16th century. The actual theme of the finished statue was not determined until shortly before its installation in the Loggia dei Lanzi, in the centre of Florence. It was then that Giambologna finally decided that it should illustrate the legendary “Rape of the Sabines”, an event from early Roman mythology, when Romulus and his male followers were anxiously seeking wives with whom to start families. The local Sabine tribe refused to permit their women to marry anyone from Rome, so the Romans staged a festival of Neptune Equester, invited their Sabine neighbours, and on a given signal snatched numerous Sabine women, whilst fighting off their men. Note that, in this context, the translation of the Latin word raptio as “rape” is misleading, as no physical violation was involved. A more accurate translation is “The Abduction of the Sabine Women”. The actual statue, 13 feet 5 inches tall (4.1 metres), is made from a single block of marble. It depicts three figures: at the base of the statue, an older bearded nude man kneels on the ground, his left arm raise in self-defence; a second younger nude male, who stands astride the kneeling man, holds a struggling nude woman in his strong arms. The kneeling man represents the weak elderly husband of the young Sabine woman who is being abducted by the young Roman. All three are interwoven into the group, through physical contact and through eye contact with each other. The impression of writhing movement is initiated by the woman’s outstretched arms, continues through the muscular figure of the young abductor, clasping the body of his prey, and ends in the raised arm of the dominated husband. The artist’s use of exaggerated gestures, along with his ability to convey a sense of intense energy, characterize his style of Mannerism.

F/5.6, 1/100 sec, ISO – 100, Photoshop CS6

Project #15

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