The Intervention of the Sabine Women
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The Intervention of the Sabine Women was sort of like the first blockbuster franchise, and first IMax-3D.

David conceived of it as a “sequel” to Poussin’s popular Rape of the Sabine Women.  In addition to the painting’s epic size (almost 13 by 17 feet), he lined the exhibition hall at the Louvre with mirrors so that viewers would feel fully immersed in the drama, and even sold tickets.

Like any good box office extravaganza, David laid on plenty of sex appeal, but audiences of the time were shocked by the male nudity.  Full frontal of women was accepted in a classical context, but a little bit of man-ass was scandalous...not unlike the modern day movie rating system.  Every girl and closeted boy in France flocked to the painting.  Some reports even describe throngs of women gawking at the painting and fantasizing about being the central heroine sandwiched between the two naked dudes on either side.

The hottie in the white dress is in fact Hersilia, in between her Sabine father Titus Tatius, and her Roman husband Romulus.  According to legend, the Romans invited the Sabines to a party and stole their women for breeding.  When the Sabine men invaded in retaliation, the Sabine women (now Roman wives and mothers) intervened for peace.  The guy in the middle with the Chris Hemsworth buns is Romulus.  Tatius is the one with a sword sheath strategically covering his peen (in not-so-subtle symbolism).  David originally painted him fully exposed, but covered over the dirty bits to appease outraged critics who thought the painting was a “threat to women’s health.”  Guess they had the FCC back in the day, too...some things never change.

Perhaps the pandering to women’s sexual desire came from David’s eagerness to get things going again with his ex wife.  David and his wife Marguerite-Charlotte had divorced following the French Revolution, in part because he was a supporter of Robespierre, who basically pulled a Hitler, with mass executions of mostly innocent aristocrats and suspected enemies of the State.  Marguerite, on the other hand, was a staunch royalist.

David started working on this painting in prison after Robespierre was guillotined under his own reign of terror, and it seems he wanted to reconcile with Marguerite.  Supposedly the theme represents love triumphing over adversity, but all the studly butts may have helped heat up Madame David’s oven.  The strategy worked better than a Marvin Gaye tune, anyway.  The David’s remarried and stayed together until Marguerite’s death.  Sleeping on the couch?  Want to show her you’re sorry? Don’t send flowers!  Say it with man meat and a wall of art at the Louvre!

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Here is what Trivium says about The Intervention of the Sabine Women

David's greatest painting, and a get-out-of-jail-free card.

1795 was a dark time for Jaques-Louis David. The French Revolution was in full bloody swing — and David, who's waffling political allegiances had kept him safe had finally gone too far.

As a member of the revolution's vicious police force, the Committee of General Security, David had directly participated in the execution of thousands of French citizens. David had blood on his hands, and when the tide turned, and Robespierre himself was guillotined, he was thrown in jail. In prison, David concieved of The Intervention of the Sabine Women.

Inspiration arrived in the form of Marguerite Charlotte Pécoul, David's estranged wife, who visited him in prison. At the time, a popular theme for history painting was "the rape of the sabine woman" — when the men of Rome kidnapped wives from the neighboring towns. Apparently, violence has always been popular in media. But David knew his history, and the stories told of a battle at the gates of Rome, where the Sabine men and the Romans clash — but Hersilia, a Sabine girl who had become the wife of Romulus, the Roman General — throws herself between the combatants in a plea for peace. A moment of compassion in a time of conflict. 

And so Jaques-Louis David laid out a massive, 17ft long canvas and went to work. David said of the piece that he wanted to capture the style of the Greek masters: "the most prominent general characteristics of the Greek masterpieces are a noble simplicity and silent greatness in pose as well as in expression." The painting would take him five years to complete. By the time his Sabine masterpiece was finished, Napoleon had risen to power and had his eye on the artist, understanding the propaganda potential of David's dramatic paintings. David showed the work in its own exebition at the National Palace of Arts and Science, and remarried Marguerite. 

Learn more about The Intervention of the Sabine Women and other artists at Trivium Art History

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Intervention of the Sabine Women

The Intervention of the Sabine Women is a 1799 painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David, showing a legendary episode following the abduction of the Sabine women by the founding generation of Rome.

David began planning the work while he was imprisoned in the Luxembourg Palace in 1795. France was at war with other European nations after a period of civil conflict culminating in the Reign of Terror and the Thermidorian Reaction, during which David had been imprisoned as a supporter of Robespierre. David hesitated between representing either this subject or that of Homer reciting his verses to his fellow Greeks. He finally chose to make a canvas representing the Sabine women interposing themselves to separate the Romans and Sabines, as a "sequel" to Poussin's The Rape of the Sabine Women.

Work on the painting commenced in 1796, after his estranged wife visited him in jail. He conceived the idea of telling the story, to honour his wife, with the theme being love prevailing over conflict and the protection of children. The painting was also seen as a plea for the people to reunite after the bloodshed of the revolution. Its realization took him nearly four years.

The painting depicts Romulus's wife Hersilia – the daughter of Titus Tatius, leader of the Sabines – rushing between her husband and her father and placing her babies between them. A vigorous Romulus prepares to strike a half-retreating Tatius with his spear, but hesitates.

The rocky outcrop in the background is the Tarpeian Rock, a reference to civil conflict, since the Roman punishment for treason was to be thrown from the rock. According to legend, when Tatius attacked Rome, he almost succeeded in capturing the city because of the treason of the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia, daughter of Spurius Tarpeius, governor of the citadel on the Capitoline Hill. She opened the city gates for the Sabines in return for "what they bore on their arms". She believed that she would receive their golden bracelets. Instead, the Sabines crushed her to death and threw her from the rock, later named for her.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Intervention of the Sabine Women.