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The rape of the daughters of Leucippus

Painting, 1618, 224×210.5 cm

Description of the artwork «The rape of the daughters of Leucippus»

The brothers Castor and Polideukos, the sons of Leda and Zeus, became famous and gave the name to the Gemini constellation not for the act that was portrayed by Rubens. Their main virtue, which has led quite dubious characters into history, is true brotherly love and dedication.

Here, in Rubens’s painting, they are not yet aware of the travails, which will make them support each other and pull from the other world; they still think only about one thing — about revenge. Castor and Polideukos steal their cousins’ brides right from the wedding not because they like the girls, but because they quarrelled with the brothers. Afterwards, the twins will have to answer for their meanness: one would die, the second, the immortal one, would share his immortality with his brother — and both, half immortals, would live one day on Olympus, one day in Hades.

Rubens was an artist of the Baroque era, he was not interested in brotherly love, because you cannot build a passionate and swirling composition out of it, he was interested in battle and confrontation. He would also build his scenes of hunting and fighting of exotic animals with humans: all those tigers and lions admired by romanticists (1, 2, 3). In 200 years, Eugene Delacroix would travel to Belgium, England and Germany to see as much of Rubens as possible. And the back of Phoebe, who is escaping from the hands of Polideukos, would become his favourite female body — he would repeat the same inhuman twist of her gentle body in "The Death Of Sardanapalus". One of the king’s slaves would break free from the hands of the servants with the same frantic gesture and with the same desperate horror.

Rubens painted quickly and widely, he preferred huge canvases giving the proper monumentality to his figures (wise, stately old men, muscular powerful men with tanned skin, round, soaring women) in the necessary scope. Allegorical, mythical creatures, heroes of the old legends, historical characters, ubiquitous cupids — “the language of the ancients penetrated into the system of his artistic thinking so deeply that he could ‘speak’ it without the slightest Flemish accent”.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova

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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Mythological scene

Style of art: Baroque

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1618

Size: 224×210.5 cm

Artwork in selections: 72 selections