The Rape of the Sabines after David


The Rape of the Sabines after David is a painting produced by Robert Ballagh in 1970.


The composition of this work is taken from the painting made by Jacques-Louis David in 1799 entitled The Intervention of the Sabine Women. Ballagh reinterpreted the original painting in his Pop art styling, using harsh lines and blocks of colour. The original painting had referenced the aftermath of the French Revolution and thus Ballagh chose to reference this composition to symbolise the political struggle occurring in Northern Ireland during this period. The struggle between Unionists and Republicans is symbolised in the arrangement of the three central characters. The figure of Hersilia is depicted standing between her father (Titus Tatius) and her husband (Romulus) who are engaged in conflict. Hersilia is dressed in white, the colour of peace, and is placed between shades of green and orange/yellow. This arrangement recalls the tricolour of the Irish flag, which symbolised the peace between Irish Republicanism and the supporters of William of Orange (King William III of England). 

Did you known?

This painting is part of the Crawford Art Gallery’s collection located in Cork. As part of an exhibition called ‘The Crawford at the Castle’ a selection of the gallery’s works were shown in Dublin Castle. This was the first showing of these works in Dublin and the exhibition ran from 8th October 2016 – 12th February 2017.

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