The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Rape of the Sabine
  • After Giambologna (1524 - 1608)
  • The Rape of the Sabine
  • France or Italy
  • 1700 - 1830
  • Statuette
  • Bronze, marble and gold
  • Height: 58.4 cm
  • S113
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Images & Media
Further Reading
  • Jean de Boulogne (1529-1608) was born in Douai, now in France but then part of the Spanish Netherlands. Giambologna, as he became popularly known in his adopted country, spent his entire career in Italy, settling in Florence, where he became the court sculptor to the Medici Grand Dukes. He was one of the greatest and most influential sculptors of all time. A quintessential mannerist artist, he created complex yet perfectly balanced compositions, in which he took the materials in which he generally worked, marble and bronze, to their limits. He also ran an extraordinarily efficient workshop system, producing large numbers of small bronze versions of his most popular compositions. Valued by the Medici rulers as diplomatic gifts, these were sent all over Europe, spreading Giambologna’s reputation more widely.

    This group is a reduction in bronze of Giambologna’s greatest masterpiece in marble, the Rape (i.e. Abduction) of a Sabine Woman, installed in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence in 1583. The subject is from early Roman history and tells of how Romulus, in order to ensure the survival of the small Roman state, arranged for a feast to which the Romans’ neighbours the Sabines were invited. At a prearranged signal, the unmarried Sabine women were carried off. Giambologna himself was in fact indifferent to the subject, creating the group ‘solely to demonstrate the excellence of his art’. The Rape of the Sabine is an astonishing technical feat, and the first sculpture made entirely in the round, and with no principal viewpoint. Famous from the time of its unveiling in January 1583, many small-scale bronze versions of it were made.