Wednesday, 1 November 2006

The Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus - Rubens, 1618

Painting for the successful merchants of seventeenth-century Holland -- and these were men who liked their women ravishingly, astonishingly big, women whose excess flesh in those times of hardship was "a signal of prosperity" -- Peter Paul Rubens was a master of the voluptuous. As Michael Gill describes Rubens's work so wonderfully in his book The Image of the Body:
Success glows through his pictures in halcyon color. No one ever caught the rosy
bloom of healthy skin, the shimmering quiver of well fed flesh with such
lip-smacking skill. His women are displayed like great compotes of cream and
exotic fruits from the Indies— kumquats and soursops and apricots, the flesh of
melons and oranges from Seville—that the Dutch merchantmen were bringing back to the ports of northern Europe. It was an overdressed age, of velvets and taffeta
and ornate brocades, when rich men habitually wore three topcoats, when even the
walls of rooms were clothed in gold-embossed Spanish leather and the massive oak
tables covered in heavy tapestries.

The acquisitive burghers who owned such things would gain an additional frisson to see openly displayed the wide expanse of tender vulnerable bodies, their clothes torn away like the protective skin ripped off a ripe plum.
Rubens, as you might have guessed, is not a painter for the politically correct. His women might be the opposite of the anorexic stick insects so scorned by the chattering classes of today, but that does not mean you will find these pictures hanging up in Womens' Studies departments. But worry not, ye who are concerned at the crime being perpetrated before you.

The stern abductors [in the painting here] were in fact Castor and Pollux, two of the babies hatched from the eggs of Leda. They did the decent thing— married the girls, who each bore them a son. So the virtuous viewer can enjoy the triumph of rampaging masculine lust without a twinge of conscience.
Phew. Thank goodness for that!



  1. Good Lord! Certainly looks like the cats are devouring this piece of meat.!

  2. I've always hated that painting....there reason? the horses look dreadful., esp the grey one, it just doesn't go with the rest of the painting.


  3. ...and they're out of perspective!!! hate it hate it

  4. Wow, way to bash classic art...

  5. Also, glorifying rape, much?

  6. I think we can agree that rape is forceable carnal knowledge, it is wrong. But this is not that, it is Bride Capture, these boys are looking for brides, not having their way with these maidens by force. Of course the girls are scared and screaming, but it is not an instance of men ravishing women. Similarly the Rape of the Sabine women is Bride Capture by the lonely Roman men, who wanted to meet some girls and took their brides at an event. The Rape of Europa is Zeus taking Europa off to Crete. Rape of Persephone is Hades taking Persephone off to the Underworld to be his queen. And the Rape of the Lock is a poem about someone who takes a lock of hair from a maiden, causing a ruckus in the Highlands. He did not have carnal knowledge of the lock of hair. I think.
    who knows too much for his own good


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