Nicolas Poussin - The Rape of the Sabine Women

In The Rape of the Sabine Women, there is no obvious vanishing point. There is great depth to this composition, which is created through a multitude of techniques. Although there are several buildings and man made objects, linear perspective is not extremely defined. However, aerial perspective is apparent. The colors of the building are muted, suggesting distance against the darker clouds. The clouds gain mass by the use of chiaroscuro, and are superimposed over a bright blue sky creating the illusion of turbulence as depicted in the foreground scene.

The use of alternating light and dark colors, and the subtle use of foreshortening leads your eye throughout the entire painting. There is a certainty of motion within the composition. The cruel fighting which is typical to Baroque painting continues on all sides of the painting, right off the frame. This gives the impression of an overpowering force to which there is no obvious end.

The figures are excellent examples of how light and shadow combined with color creates mass and modeling.

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The clothing material, facial expressions, and muscles tension are sharply defined.

A whole story evolves before your eyes. You can feel the pain and horror these women must have had to endure. Their arms stretch out almost to the heavens for help. The men have indifferent, placid expressions. In the midst of the mayhem are two helpless babies who look up in the confusion at the free-for-all that is taking place before them.


Cleaver, Dale G. Art An Introduction 5th Edition.

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Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1989.

Hibbard, Howard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Harrison House, NY. 1980.

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Nicolas Poussin - The Rape of the Sabine Women. (2016, Jun 22). Retrieved from

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