Lot 21
  • 21

Jacopo Ligozzi

600,000 - 800,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Jacopo Ligozzi
  • The abduction of the Sabine women
  • Signed and indistinctly dated IACOPO LIGOZZI / FA [CE]VA...96 (lower center, beneath the dog)
  • Oil on canvas


Bardi collection, Rome, before 1946 (almost certainly Pietro Maria Bardi, who moved that year to Brazil)
Private Collection, Sao Paulo, Brazil, thence by descent
Anonymous sale: Sotheby's, New York, January 11, 1990, lot 71
Acquired at the above sale by A. Alfred Taubman


Detroit Institute of Arts, 1990-2015 (on loan)
The Art Institute of Chicago & Detroit Institute of Arts, The Medici, Michelangelo, and The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, November 9, 2002 - June 8, 2003, no. 25


Enciclopedia della Pittura Italiana, 1951, pp. 1349-1351, illustrated p. 1351
Mina Bacci, "Jacopo Ligozzi e la sua posizione nella pittura Fiorentina," Proporzioni, vol. IV, 1963, p. 71 passim
The Medici, Michelangelo and The Art of Late Renaissance Florence, L'ombra del genio: Michelangelo e l'arte a Firenze, 1537-1631 (exhibition catalogue), Milan, 2002, no. 25, p. 160, illustrated in color p. 161
Sandro Bellesi, Catalogo dei pittori fiorentini del '600 e '700, Florence, 2009, vol. I, p. 178, illustrated vol. III, p. 41, fig. 898

Catalogue Note

This remarkable work was painted in 1596 by Jacopo Ligozzi who, despite originating from Verona, spent most of his life at the service of the court of the Medici Grandukes in Florence. His talents were extraordinary and his production included scientific and botanical drawings, designs to be rendered in pietradura, frescoes, miniatures, and both allegorical and religious paintings. The present work stands out from his corpus as it depicts the abduction of the Sabine women, and is thus possibly Ligozzi's only treatment of a classical history subject.

While Ligozzi's religious altarpieces can at times appear a little austere and, to a modern audience, too adherent to the ethos of the Counter-Reformation, his small-scale works, particularly those on copper or those depicting macabre or vanitas subjects, display a remarkable modernity. In all his works, however, what stands out is a concern for detail, which is probably due to the artist's miniaturist training. It is particularly in evidence in the present work in the gold embroidery of the red garments in the central figure, as well as in the tail of the horse at left.

Ligozzi was clearly responsive to the artistic influences around him. Throughout his career, the artist reveals a debt to Paolo Veronese's art in his treatment of large-scale paintings, as can be seen in the present work. From the two historical works from 1591 in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, which were his first public commissions, the Coronation of Cosimo I and Pope Boniface receiving the Florentine Ambassadors (figs 1 and 2), to his late work from 1623 in the cathedral of Livorno, the Apotheosis of Saint Giulia, the echoes of Veronese's classical settings, architecture and mise-en-scène can be detected. Moreover, in the figures there is also a clear reference to Giambologna's bronze bas-relief of the same subject in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence.

The ancient historians Livy and Plutarch famously recounted the Roman abduction of the Sabine women. In the first book of his colossal history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, Livy wrote that the Romans, not long after Romulus had founded the city, risked dying out within a single generation due to a dearth of fertile women. Desperate for a solution to this potential population crisis, Romulus sent envoys to the neighboring tribes, including the Oscan-speaking Sabines, to request intermarriage with their daughters. The Romans, however, were spurned at every turn. Upon hearing the news Romulus concealed his injured pride and organized a spectacle to honor the god Neptune, to which he invited the neighboring communities. Once the festivities commenced, Romulus gave an agreed-upon signal and the Roman men began running off with the Sabine maidens, in a gross violation of ancient laws of hospitality. The Sabines later declared war on the Romans, but their daughters, by that point married contentedly to Roman men, famously lunged themselves into the midst of the fighting and beseeched their husbands and fathers to lay down their arms. This intervention represents a dramatic reversal in the role of the Sabine women; through marriage, Livy implied, the powerless Sabine maidens transformed themselves into active agents of peace between the two peoples.