10 February 2009

Romulus and Remus

I'm reading Steven Saylor's Roma in preparation for the Roman History Books Group's book chats on 19 February and 5 March. Chapter III is based on the story of Romulus and Remus, the foundation of Rome, and the Rape of the Sabine Women (this is what it's usually called, but to clear up any misapprehensions, "rape" here means kidnapping or abduction). Saylor is not of course the first person to be inspired by these stories. Let's have a look at some of the art they have inspired. (all images apart from the book cover are in the public domain and taken from wiki commons)

Romulus and Remus were the twin sons of the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, who was seduced by the god Mars. The upper picture above from 1616/7 showing Mars and Rhea Silvia is by Rubens, and is now in Vienna's Liechtenstein Museum. The lower picture above showing Mars and the Vestal Virgin is by Blanchard and is slightly later (c. 1630). It is now in Sydney's Art Gallery of New South Wales. Rubens had already painted the next part of the story with a picture of Romulus and Remus as babies in the 1614 picture shown below, now in Rome's Pinacoteca Capitolina.

Cortone's 1643 picture, now in Paris's Louvre shows the next step in the story with the twins having been found by the shepherd Faustulus and taken home to his wife Acca Larentia. Sebastiano Ricci shows a domestic scene with Romulus and Remus as infants in the house of Faustulus and Acca Larentia in a 1708 picture now in St. Petersburg's The Hermitage. Gauffier, painting in the late 18th century, shows a similar scene in a picture now in Bordeaux's Musée des Beaux-Arts.

A series of tapestries showing the story of Romulus and Remus dating from the 1560s and now in Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum is travelling to the USA in 2010. Unfortunately the tapestries do not seem to be on the museum's website, but details of the travelling exhibition can be seen here. The tapestries also show the Rape of the Sabine Women, a theme I'll be looking at in my next post.

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