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Jacques Louis David - The Sabine Women

by Alexandra Tuschka

A beautiful woman stands with her arms outstretched in the middle of a battlefield. To her right and left are two men with helmets, weapons and shields. Between them, at the bottom of the picture are also other women and children. On both edges of the picture and in the background there is a tumult of fighting soldiers.

The legend of the Sabine women tells that Romulus, after Rome was founded, was worried about the offspring. There were too few women in the city. He invited the neighboring Sabines and their families to a feast. However, this was a trap. At this feast, the Romans robbed all the unmarried women and did not allow them to return home even later. To free their women, the Sabines went into battle against Rome. But the women, who by now were married and had children, threw themselves between the parties and convinced the men to end the war.

While we can observe the hustle and bustle in the background here, the moment of pause is shown in the foreground. Although the women are the cause of the fight, they are the ones who want to prevent it. They are - literally - between the fronts. A particularly vehement attempt at persuasion is found in the lady in the center, who climbs onto a pedestal to show a baby - the symbol of innocent life - to the angry masses.

In this image, the contrast between the feminine and masculine poles is unmistakable. The feminine - the soft, emotional - stands in stark contrast to the hard, belligerent men, who, however, allow themselves to be softened by the women and finally agree to make peace.

Jacques Louis David - The Sabine Women

Oil on canvas, 1799, 385 x 522 cm, Musée du Louvre in Paris


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