The Rape of the Sabines thumbnail 1
The Rape of the Sabines thumbnail 2
+3
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 62, The Foyle Foundation Gallery

The Rape of the Sabines

Statuette
ca. 1579-80 (Made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

This wax-model is by Giambologna from ca. 1579-80, made in Florence.

A bronze two-figure version of this subject by Giambologna was cast in 1579 for Ottavio Farnese. The wax on the left appears to mark the intermediate stage between the bronze and the three-figure group that developed. As the wax is broken, it is not clear whether a third figure originally existed. In the group on the right the figure of the Sabine is hollow which suggests that it was cast from an earlier model.

The group was conceived as an exercise in creating three figures in movement, the title only being given when the full-size marble was placed in position in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence in 1583.

Born in Flanders Giovanni Bologna (1524-1608), or short Giambologna went to Rome to study antique sculpture from about 1550 to 1553. He then travelled through Florence where he was persuaded to stay. He became sculptor to the Medici family and thus became one of the most influential sculptors of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He drew attention to many artists from Northern Europe and disseminated his style mainly through small bronzes. He established an efficient and large workshop.


Object details
Category
Object type
Materials and techniques
Wax, cast and modelled
Brief description
Model the rape of the Sabines
Physical description
The group shows a standing man with right leg retracted and left leg advanced, lifting a female figure in his arms. The figure of the woman rests on his left shoulder and is supported at the back by his left arm and at the front by his right hand, which clasps her left hip. Beneath is a crouching male figure, whose lower left leg lies along one side of the base and whose body is threaded through beneath the legs of the standing man and protrudes behind. The model is mounted on a high cylindrical base of wood, the top of which is covered with wax in part squared off to form a rectangular plinth.

The model is extensively damaged, and the following parts are missing: the head and fingers of the raised left hand of the crouching figure, the head of the standing man, the head, left arm, right elbow and forearm, right ankle and foot and left leg of the female figure.
Dimensions
  • Height: 47.2cm
  • Max width: 14.7cm
  • Footprint width: 12.2cm
  • Depth: 12.3cm
  • Weight: 1.78kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Gallery label
  • THE RAPE OF THE SABINES Reduced copy in wax from the marble group of the same subject in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence, carved by GIOVANNI BOLOGNA (b.1524 [sic]; d.1608) in 1582-82. ITALIAN (FLORENTINE); end of the 16th century. 1092-1854
  • THE RAPE OF THE SABINES. Red wax. By GIOVANNI BOLOGNA (b.1529; d.1608). ITALIAN (FLORENTINE); ca. 1579. 1092-1854. This sketch-model for the marble group of the Rape of the Sabines in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence (installed 1582), was once in the collection of Sir Thomas Lawrence. It shows a later stage in the development of the design than the wax model 4125-1854 (exhibited nearby). The composition is closely related to that of the full-scale gesso model (Accademia, Florence), and it is therefore likely to date from ca. 1579.(1986)
  • THE RAPE OF THE SABINES Wax sketch-models By GIOVANNI BOLOGNA (1529-1608) ITALIAN (Florence); about 1579-80 4125-1854 1092-1854 A bronze two-figure version of this subject by Giambologna was cast in 1579 for Ottavio Farnese. The wax on the left appears to mark the intermediate stage between the bronze and the three-figure group that developed. As the wax is broken, it is not clear whether a third figure originally existed. In the group on the right the figure of the Sabine is hollow which suggests that it was cast from an earlier model. The group was conceived as an exercise in creating three figures in movement, the title only being given when the full-size marble was placed in position in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence in 1583.(April 1992)
Object history
Purchased in London (vendor not recorded, £1). Previously in the Woodburn collection (sale, London, Christie, 19 May, 1854, no.514; "The rape of the Sabines, of G. di Bologna", bt. Eastwood with no.513, £7). The model was bought by Samuel Woodburn at the sale of the effects for Sir Thomas Lawrence (Christie, 19 June, 1830, p.21, no.349; "An original Model, in wax, for the celebrated group of the Rape of the Sabines, by Giovanni Bologna", £13 13s).



Historical significance: The present wax model, along with another from the V&A's collection (4125-1854), relate to Giambologna's monumental marble Rape of the Sabines in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. Pope-Hennessy explains the history of its attribution. When it was purchased it was given as "a preliminary study for an ancient reduced copy of Giovanni Bologna's Rape of the Sabines", and was regarded by John Charles Robinson as "probably a reduction, by the hand of the master, from the marble group, intended to serve as a model for one of the numerous small bronzes which he frequently executed". Eric Maclagan and Margaret Longhurst consider it to be a workshop copy after the original. Dhanens rejects the group, but Holderbaum called it an autograph model made in preparation for the three-figure marble group, based on a stylistic comparison with the Grimaldi Chapel reliefs (328, 329 and 330-1879). This places the current wax immediately preceding the full-scale terracotta version in the Accademia, Florence and following that, the finished marble.

X-rays have revealed that the female figure is hollow and the two male figures are solid, which suggests that the female figure has been cast from a successful previous version, and then added to a new composition for the lower part of the group. For an explanation of the use of the two-figure wax group as a model for a two-figure bronze statuette see 4125-1854. The third figure would have been added to the initial composition in order to make it possible for the artist to execute it in marble. The earlier version constituting two figures would not have been able to bear its own weight in marble without snapping at the ankles.

It is a commonly held belief, expressed by Charles Avery among others, that Giambologna's primary interest in sculpture lay in pursuing the boundaries of the material, and that works such as The Rape of the Sabines were carried out solely as an exercise in virtuoso composition and execution. According to Giambologna's first Florentine patron, Raffaello Borghini, the artist was already working on this monumental marble when he himself passed by and named the statue in 1582 (Il Riposto).This view has however been challenged subsequently by Mary Weitzel Gibbons among others.
Subject depicted
Summary
This wax-model is by Giambologna from ca. 1579-80, made in Florence.



A bronze two-figure version of this subject by Giambologna was cast in 1579 for Ottavio Farnese. The wax on the left appears to mark the intermediate stage between the bronze and the three-figure group that developed. As the wax is broken, it is not clear whether a third figure originally existed. In the group on the right the figure of the Sabine is hollow which suggests that it was cast from an earlier model.



The group was conceived as an exercise in creating three figures in movement, the title only being given when the full-size marble was placed in position in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence in 1583.



Born in Flanders Giovanni Bologna (1524-1608), or short Giambologna went to Rome to study antique sculpture from about 1550 to 1553. He then travelled through Florence where he was persuaded to stay. He became sculptor to the Medici family and thus became one of the most influential sculptors of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He drew attention to many artists from Northern Europe and disseminated his style mainly through small bronzes. He established an efficient and large workshop.
Bibliographic references
  • Maclagan, E and Longhurst MH Catalogue of Italian Sculptures, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1932, p.146, pl.90c
  • Pope-Hennessy, J Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1964, pp.468-9, cat.no.491, fig.490
  • Avery, C and Radcliffe, A Giambologna 1529-1608, Sculptor to the Medici, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978, p.220, cat.no.226
  • Avery, C Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture, Oxford 1987, pp.69, 240-1, 277 cat.no.197, pl.80
  • Raggio, Olga Catalougue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria & Albert Museum, Art Bulletin, vol. L, 1968, pp.102-103
  • Dhanens, E Jean Boulogne: Giovanni Bologna Fiammingo, Brussels 1956
  • Avery, C and Hall, M. Giambologna: Sculpture by the Master and his Followers , exhibition catalogue, Salander-O'Reily Galleries, New York, 6 March - 4 April 1998, p.48
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1854. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 17.
  • Trusted, Marjorie, ed. The Making of Sculpture. The Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: 2007, p. 25, p. 29-30.
Collection
Accession number
1092-1854

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

Record createdDecember 23, 2005
Record URL
Download as: JSONIIIF Manifest