Jacques-Louis David’s neoclassical masterpiece, The Intervention of the Sabine Women, is an oil on canvas painting measuring 385 x 522 cm that depicts the legendary episode of the abduction of Sabine women by Roman men. Created between 1795-1799, while David was imprisoned, the painting shows a battle between Roman husbands and Sabine fathers that is stopped by the intervention of the Sabine women.
The central figure in the painting is Hersilia, a Sabine woman who intervenes in the battle. David makes use of a panoramic view of the battlefield on a 17ft long canvas to depict various figures bunched up and naked reminiscent of Romans or Spartans. In doing so, he emphasizes their physicality and strength.
More than just an arresting image that speaks to viewers’ patriotic pride and classical education alike, The Intervention of the Sabine Women is also notable for its almost mythological origins — elevating this epic narrative from simple legend to timeless allegory about artistic expression itself.
It should be noted that while many may mistakenly refer to it as The Rape of the Sabines instead of its proper title – The Intervention of the Sabine Women -is a testament not only to how prominent this incident has become within foundational Western mythology but also how subconscious cultural attitudes about sexual violence continue even centuries later.