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“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli

Suicide lucretia

“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli

“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli is a tempera and oil painting on wood, painted between 1496 and 1504 during the Italian Renaissance. The subject of this painting is the legend of at Lucretia, a noblewoman, who was raped by the son of the king of Rome, Sextus Tarquinius. Lucretia, believing that the rape dishonoured her and her family, committed suicide by stabbing herself with a dagger after telling of what had befallen her.

According to legend, Brutus grabbed the dagger from Lucretia’s breast after her death and immediately shouted for the overthrow of the King. Lucius Junius Brutus took an oath to expel the King Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, from Rome and never to allow anyone else to reign again as King. This revolt against tyranny, made Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome.

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In the centre of the painting is Lucretia with the dagger with which she killed herself protruding from her breast. She is on public display as a heroine, and Brutus stands on the base of the column urging the citizens of Rome to revolt. The scene on the left porch is showing Sextus threatening Lucretia with sexual violence. The scene on the right porch shows the death of Lucretia.

The statue at the top of the column is David and Goliath’s head.  “David and Goliath” were a symbol of revolt against tyranny in the Republic of Florence. Lucretia had called for vengeance which Brutus turned into a revolution to end the monarchy. Before the establishment of the Roman Republic, Rome had been ruled by kings. Brutus led the revolt that overthrew the last king.

Many years later, one of the leading assassins of Julius Caesar was a descendant of Lucius Junius Brutus. The primary charge of the plotters against Julius Caesar was that Julius Caesar was attempting to make himself a king. Thus a leading conspirator Cassius, enticed Brutus’ direct descendant, Marcus Junius Brutus, a leading Roman senator to join the conspiracy by referring to his ancestor’s role in deposing the last king of Rome.

Cesar-sa mort

“The Death of Julius Caesar” by Vincenzo Camuccini at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna (1804-1805)

Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance who belonged to the Florentine School under the patronage of Lorenzo de’ Medici. His mythological masterpieces are his best-known works today. However, he painted a range of religious subjects and portraits. He and his workshop were primarily known for their many beautiful Madonna and Child paintings. He lived all his life in the same neighbourhood of Florence, and his only significant time elsewhere was the few months he spent painting in Pisa in 1474 and his work at the Sistine Chapel in Rome in 1481–82.

Exploring Botticelli

Reflections

  • Lucretia had called for vengeance, but Brutus had called for the ouster of the monarchy. How often in history do events have unforeseen consequences?
  • How significant a role did Brutus’ family history and heritage have on his actions to kill Caesar?

The Story of Lucretia

  • Title:                  The Story of Lucretia
  • Artist:                 Sandro Botticelli
  • Year:                  1496–1504
  • Medium:            Tempera and oil on wood
  • Dimensions        83.8 cm × 176.8 cm (33.0 in × 69.6 in)
  • Museum:            Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston

Sandro Botticelli

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“There are three classes of people: Those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.” – Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: 1) Sandro Botticelli [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 2) Sandro Botticelli [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 3) Vincenzo Camuccini [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons