The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

The Story of Lucretia

Suicide lucretia

“The Story of Lucretia” by Sandro Botticelli is a tempera and oil painting on a 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.

Sandro Botticelli 078

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 exhorting the citizens of Rome to revolt. The scene on the left porch is shows 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 revolt to end monarchy. Prior to 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 main 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)

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Essential Facts:

  • 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

Artist Essential Facts:

  • Name:                     Sandro Botticelli
  • Birth Name:         Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi
  • Born:                      c. 1445 – Florence, Republic of Florence, (now Italy)
  • Died:                       May 17, 1510 (aged c. 64) – Florence, Republic of Florence
  • Nationality:          Italian
  • Movement:           Italian Renaissance
  • Notable works:
    • Primavera
    • The Birth of Venus
    • The Adoration of the Magi

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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