Completed in 1571 for Philip II of Spain, “Tarquin and Lucretia” by Titian captures the tragic tale of Sextus Tarquinius’ rape of Lucretia, a Roman princess who later committed suicide. The painting is considered to be one of the most experimental versions of three paintings that Titian painted on this subject. Lucretia’s resistance is unambiguous as she tearfully pushes her assailant back while he brandishes a knife.
The painting depicts Tarquin’s slave holding back the curtain while he advances towards Lucretia on her bed. Interestingly, Lucretia’s suicide was portrayed in art more commonly than the rape that led to it. The combination of violence and beauty makes this painting an extraordinarily moving and involving image.
It is worth noting that Titian himself had treated this subject fifty years earlier in another painting. Completed entirely by the artist himself, “Tarquin and Lucretia” stands out due to its composition and experimentation with elements such as color, light, and perspective.
In summary, “Tarquin and Lucretia” remains a significant work of art known for its distinctive portrayal of the violent act it represents. With its stunning colors, intricate composition depicting intricate details like curtains being pulled aside by Tarquin’s slave boyhead stuck out, multi-layered themes challenging power structures within society at large —Titian’s mastery as both an artist capable delivering delicate emotional strokes while still managing bolder gesture radiates within each canvas.