17th C, Dated 1632, Baroque, Historical, Simon Floquet (Floeket, Flokeet, Flo(c)quet) (Antwerp?, c. 1615 – Antwerp?, after 1635); The Abduction of the Sabine Women, Oil on Copper, 71 x 88 cm, Framed
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Simon Floquet copied this “Abduction of the Sabine Women” after a painting by Peter Paul Rubens. The talented Floquet worked for important international art dealers based in Antwerp: the Forchondt and Musson families. Guillermo Forchondt, for example, traded with customers in Vienna since 1636 and shipped many wares to Spain and Portugal from 1640. Floquet’s painting was most probably intended for a Spanish client. We can make that reasoning if we know that Rubens painted his “Abduction of the Sabines” for the Spanish King Philip IV. The monarch ordered the canvas from Rubens in the summer of 1639. He wanted to embellish the “salón nuevo” of the Alcázar in Madrid with two large paintings (350 x 450 cm): “the abduction of the Sabine women” and “the reconciliation of the Romans and the Sabines”. Due to the death of Rubens in 1640 the unfinished painting with the “Abduction” was completed by Gaspar de Crayer. In 1734, Rubens’s two paintings on the history of the Sabines went up in flames during a fire in the Alcázar. So, the small-scale copy of Floquet is an important - albeit indirect - visual testimony of Philip IV’s great commission. The legendary story of the “Abduction of the Sabine women” was written down by the classical authors Ovid, Titus Livius and Plutarch. The story goes as follows. Romelus, the founder of Rome, faced a shortage of women in his new town. He devised a cunning plan and invited the neighboring people of the Sabines to a great feast. At the festival of the chariot racing his soldiers seized the unmarried Sabine women. The Sabine men did not let this happen and went into battle. The Sabine women then tried to separate the fighting parties and begged them to keep peace. The painting with the wildly gesticulating characters is very theatrical and dramatic. The swinging movement in the composition (starting in the top right corner and ending in the bottom right corner) evokes the swirling effect of battle. The pale skin tone of the defeated women contrasts with the dark-skinned soldiers. Violence and eroticism are closely related in this work. Although the architecture in the painting is antiquating, the Sabine women wear contemporary 17th-century dresses. In this way, the contemporary viewer can more easily empathize with the story. The copy by Flouquet is elegantly painted with an eye for light effect and color. Like his example Rubens, he guides the viewer’s eye to the culmination point of the action by giving soldiers on the horseback a crimson cloak and dressing his victim in a snow-white robe.