National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Tarquin and Lucretia Giuseppe Maria Crespi (artist)
Bolognese, 1665 - 1747
Tarquin and Lucretia, c. 1695/1700
oil on canvas
overall: 195 x 171.5 cm (76 3/4 x 67 1/2 in.) framed: 222.9 x 201.9 x 14.3 cm (87 3/4 x 79 1/2 x 5 5/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: The Emergence of New Genres
Object 5 of 6

By around 1700 Crespi had developed new genre subjects and cultivated a clientele for these scenes of everyday life. But this canvas—painted around the same time—is instead based on a story from the legendary past of ancient Rome: the rape of the virtuous matron Lucretia by the son of Rome’s Etruscan king, her suicide in the face of family disgrace, and the establishment of the Republic after Lucretia’s kinsmen avenged her honor by driving the king from Rome.

Despite the weight of his historical theme, Crespi’s picture has a directness similar to that found in his genre scenes. We see the speed of Tarquin’s assault by his entanglement in the bed curtain. There is no mistaking the passion and violence of his movement, nor any equivocation over good and evil—Lucretia is bathed in light but Tarquin’s shadow begins to cover her with darkness. Crespi’s conception is unusual. The subject was a popular one, and its formulas well defined. Artists routinely depicted Tarquin as threatening Lucretia with his sword, but Crespi shows his weapon fallen to the floor. Here Tarquin brings his hand to his lips admonishing Lucretia to be silent. Her gesture is more aggressive—and unprecedented. She is not a passive victim but shoves Tarquin’s head in a forceful attempt to repel him. Crespi’s brushwork, quick and energetic, contributes to the drama, as does the strong play of light and dark.

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Exhibition History

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