"The Rape of Lucretia," Oil on Canvas, C. 1650
In 16th century Europe, the story of the rape of Lucretia and her subsequent suicide was so well known that the Paduan philosopher and literary critic Sperone Speroni could write, "There is no one so stupid that he has not heard of her."
The story is found in the Roman historian Livy's History of Rome, an account which was adapted into verse by Ovid in the Fasti - a long poem based upon the Roman calendar, composed in the early 1st century AD. What was reported first as history, became a fable about treachery and honour.
After the rape, Lucretia tells all to her husband, Brutus, and her father. She then stabs herself, unable to bear the dishonour Tarquin's crime has bought upon her own family. "Though I acquit myself of the sin," she says in Livy, "I do not absolve myself of the punishment. Nor in time to come shall ever unchaste woman live, through the example of Lucretia."
Brutus and his friends and family vow vengeance upon Tarquin, and the subsequent war brings about the establishment of the Roman republic. Lucretia was seen, therefore, both as a paragon of wifely virtue and as the martyr on whose grave the ancient Roman Republic was built. In Renaissance Venice, 'the Most Serene Republic,' this was a significant combination.
FRAMED: HEIGHT: 63 in | WIDTH: 70 in
UNFRAMED: HEIGHT: 43 in | WIDTH: 60 in
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CONDITION: Relined, under uv light a few old repaints