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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Generosity of Scipio” by Jean II Restout

"The Generosity of Scipio" by Jean II Restout

“The Generosity of Scipio” by Jean II Restout

“The Generosity of Scipio” by Jean II Restout depicts a famous story about the Roman general Scipio during his military campaign in Spain in the Second Punic War. Despite having a reputation for womanizing, Scipio resisted his usual brutal treatment of attractive female “barbarian” prisoners. He instead summoned her parents and fiancé, who arrived with a ransom of treasure. Scipio is depicted with his palm raised to gesture that he gives the defeated Price his bride. He refused the generous payment and returning her to her fiancé Allucius, who in return became a supporter of Rome.

In recognition of his humane treatment of a prisoner, Scipio was taken as one of the prime examples of mercy during warfare in classical times. Interest in the story revived in the Renaissance. The telling of the episode figured widely after that in both the literary and figurative arts. There are many artistic depictions of the mercy and the sexual restraint of Scipio. Although, as with the operas related to this story, they now have a variety of titles. “The Continence of Scipio” is most common, although “The Clemency of Scipio” is also found.

The most common alternative example of military clemency descending from classical times was Alexander the Great’s generous treatment of the family of the defeated Persian King Darius, in the painting “The Family of Darius before Alexander” by Paolo Veronese. The scene of a victorious general seated at the center of the composition with kneeling figures before him tells the story.

Scipio Africanus

Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus (236–183 BC) was a Roman general and later consul who was one of the greatest military commanders and strategists of all time. His main achievements were during the Second Punic War where he is best known for defeating Hannibal at the final battle of the Battle in 202 BC. This was one of the feats that earned him the nickname Africanus.

Although considered a hero by the general Roman populace, primarily for his contributions in the struggle against the Carthaginians, Scipio was reviled by other patricians of his day. In his later years, he was tried for bribery and treason, unfounded charges that were only meant to discredit him before the public. Disillusioned by the ingratitude of his peers, Scipio left Rome and withdrew from public life.

Jean II Restout

Jean II Restout (1692 – 1768) was a French painter, whose work was mainly altar-pieces, ceilings, and designs for Gobelin tapestries. In 1717, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture elected him a member, and he exhibited at many of the salons.

Reflections

  • Was this a rare example of humane treatment during a war in the ancient world?

The Generosity of Scipio

  • Title:              The Generosity of Scipio
  • Artist:            Jean II Restout
  • Date:             1728
  • Medium:       oil on canvas
  • Type:             History Painting
  • Dimensions:  130 x 196,7 cm
  • Acquired:      1983
  • Museum:      Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Jean II Restout

  • Artist:            Jean II Restout
  • Born:            1692, Rouen, France
  • Died:            1768
  • Nationality:  French
  • Notable Works:

Explore Berlin’s Museums

A Tour of Germany’s Museums

Berlin Museums

Munich Museums

Hamburg Museums

Frankfurt Museums

Dresden Museums

Nuremberg Museums

Cologne Museums

Karlsruhe Museums

Hanover Museums

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“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
– Leo Tolstoy

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Photo Credit:  JOM

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