E.48 Battle of the Romans and the Sabines

E.48 Caraglio, Battle of the Romans and the Sabines, III

Engraving by Gian Jacopo Caraglio, 35.7 x 50.1 L (London, II).

Four states:

I.  Unfinished.  The entire composition has been engraved in outline and interior details have also been defined with lines; the upper center of the print has been finely finished with a few figures outlined only and others incompletely modelled, the architecture at the upper left is incomplete and shows a herm outlined in the niche, the limbs of a few figures in the bottom half are partly modelled, and the cast shadows on the ground have been defined (Paris).

II.  Also unfinished but details in the upper right corner of the print have been more completely defined (London; Vienna).

III.  The print has been completed by a less skilled engraver who did not understand the arrangement of the steps at the right and who, thus, removed the horizontal lines and orthogonals, making the architecture here incomprehensible; he also removed the herm from the niche at the upper left and shaded this entire area.  Inscribed on the wall at the top just left of center: • RAPTVS • / •  SABINARO • (the N backwards), and at the lower left: • ROMVLE •  MILITIBVS •_SEIST •_/  • DARE • CONMODA •  TVIS •1

IV.  Also inscribed, at the lower right: Ant.sal.exc.

Fig.E.48, Paris (State I)
Fig.E.48, London (State II)
Fig.E.48, London, III (State III)
Fig.E.48, Florence (State IV, detail)

Bartsch, XV, 1813, 96-98, 63, in the heading as after Bandinelli, according to Florent le Comte, who also wrongly attributed the print to Marcantonio, but in Bartsch’s text as after Rosso, according to Vasari.  Bartsch describes what is here State III, but mentions as a State I the impression in Vienna that is here State II.  Le Blanc, 1854-1890, I, 590, 64 (State III).

COLLECTIONS: Bologna (IV).  Chatsworth, Vol. 2, p.85 (154) (III).  Berlin, 413-22 (III).  Braunschweig, no. 11 (IV).  Florence, 95907ss (IV).  London, 1873-5-10-222 (III); 1898-2-15-4 (III, poor); Caraglio Vol., C53, p.57a, 1919-7-14-2 (II).  New York, 49.97.254 (III).  Paris, Eb 6b Rés. (I, a small segment in the upper left corner is missing and re-drawn, and a large piece at the lower left is missing and re-drawn, including the entire right foot of the bearded nude looking to the left and gesturing to the right); also an impression of III.  Vienna, It.I.25, p.53 (II), p.54 (III).


Dyce Collection, 1874, 161, no. 1230, as designed by Bandinelli.

Voss, 1920, 188, as strongly influenced by Bandinelli’s Massacre of the Innocents, engraved by Marco Dente, and by Baccio’s Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, engraved by Marcantonio.

Pittaluga, 1928, 174, Fig. 110, and 175, Fig. 11.

Antal, 1928-1929 (1966, 55).

Kusenberg, 1931, 27-28, 163, Pl. xx, 2 (State III) as Michelangelesque, with the disposition of the figures influenced by Bandinelli.

De Witt, 1938, 52, lists the Salamanca print in the Uffizi but wrongly says there is an impression of the second state in this collection.

Becherucci, 1944 (1949, 30).

Barocchi, 1950, 65, 174, and Figs. 42-43 (Uffizi, IV), as Raphaelesque and Bandinellian.

Petrucci, 1964, 45.

Poirier, 1964, 61.  Zerner, “Caraglio,” 1972, 693; III, Fig. 5 (London, II).

Campbell, in RISD, 1973, 80-81, no. 87, Fig. (New York, III), as representing Vesta Reconciling the Romans and the Sabines.

Ferrara and Gaeta Bertelà, 1975, no. 172 (Bologna, IV).

Borroni and Kozakiewicz, 1976, 616.

Borea, 1979, 370, and Fig. 224 (Vienna, II), thought the finished print was made on another plate using as its model an impression made from Caraglio’s unfinished plate.

Borea, 1980, 248, 250, nos. 619 (London, II), 620 (Florence, IV), 250 Fig. (London, II).

Darragon, 1983, 46, n. 7, 64, 70, n. 35, Fig. 47 (London, II).

Boorsch and Spike, IB, 28, 1985, 202 (London, 1873-5-10-222).

Carroll, 1987, 24, 40, 140-143, no. 47, with Fig. (Paris, I).

Massari, 1989, 117.

Carroll, 1989, 9, 14, Fig. 27 (Paris, I).

Ciardi and Mugnaini, 1991, 30, as datable in 1527.

Franklin, 1994, 134, 136, 160.

Ciardi, 1994, 31, 34, Fig. (Paris, I), 84, Fig. (Florence, III), 85, the architectural background from Donatello.

Harpath, 1994, 362-363, Fig. 4 (Paris, I), the two nudes at the lower right related to Uffizi 6485F, which he attributes to Rosso [RD.10].

In his account of the career of Caraglio, Vasari states that the “ratto delle sabine” was begun by the engraver “per il Rosso” after the two prints designed by the latter for the Loves of the Gods.  The plate was not completed at the time of the Sack of Rome early in May 1527 and was not finished later by Caraglio because Rosso left Rome.  Only thereafter, when the plate fell into the hands of the “stampatori,” was it completed by an engraver who did not understand what he was doing, resulting in a “cattiva cosa.”  The states of this print clearly show this to have been the case.  What is finished of the first and second states by Caraglio is very finely and subtly engraved, showing, one might assume, the sensitively rendered chiaroscuro and details of Rosso’s disegno di stampa.  The finished print shows its very crude completion by an engraver, who, besides filling in the incomplete parts of the plate, also here and there worked slightly over the parts finished by Caraglio.  No other prints by Caraglio after Rosso’s designs show inscriptions within the pictorial area of the engraving, strongly suggesting that those of this print were not originally intended.

Rosso would seem to have made the design for this print in the spring of 1527, after the two designs for the Loves of the Gods.  The design for the Romans and the Sabines would have to have been made sufficiently before early May to allow Caraglio to have engraved as much as he did before the Sack.  One may ask why Caraglio did not finish the plate himself after the Sack.  Vasari says it was because Rosso had departed, implying, one could conclude, that the engraver and artist worked so closely together that the latter could not work alone.  However, one could also conclude that Caraglio no longer had Rosso’s disegno di stampa, either because it was destroyed or because Rosso took it away with him.  It should also be pointed out that this print was not, it seems, commissioned by Baviera.  After the Sack, Caraglio was working for him and was well occupied with engraving the remainder of the Loves of the Gods designed by Perino del Vaga.  The engraver may not have had the time to complete independently Rosso’s composition.  It is also possible that without Baviera’s help Caraglio would not have been able to print and market the Romans and the Sabines.

From the appearance of the shading and details of the finished print, it is clear that the second engraver did not have Rosso’s disegno di stampa to work from.  Otherwise he would not have left in such an incomprehensible state the arrangement of the steps at the far right.  Consequently, it is only from the two unfinished states that Rosso’s and Caraglio’s intentions can be understood.  Impressions of the third and fourth states that I have seen all show the parts completed by Caraglio worn down considerably.  It could be that these are all late impressions.  But it is also possible that the second engraver worked over the entire plate somewhat before he began engraving on it to reduce the darkness of the very rich original shadows that he knew he could not carry through in the parts he was to finish.2  Except for the added Salamanca address, the fourth state is not discernibly different from the third.  It is possible that the third state is also due to Salamanca, who may have commissioned the completion of the print.  It is not known when the plate was finished, although this must have taken place before Salamanca died in 1562.

Although Vasari called the print the “ratto delle Sabine,” probably because the finished engraving has this title inscribed upon it as well as a Latin phrase at the lower left indicating the same subject, this cannot be what the scene represents.  On the basis of Livy’s The Early History of Rome, Book I, and the identification of the clothed woman in the middle of the foreground as the goddess Vesta seated on her favorite animal, the donkey, Campbell (see above) suggested that the print should be titled Vesta Reconciling the Romans and the Sabines.  Livy does not mention Vesta and it is not necessarily true that the central woman is this goddess, especially as the nude man behind her appears also to be seated on a donkey.  With her right hand held out with the palm down, the woman, who may be older than the other women and who does not have a child with her, is attempting to calm the battle.  To the right of her is an old bearded man, seated as well on an animal, who appears to be encouraging the young warriors to listen to the peace-making efforts of the central woman.  A donkey also appears in the crowd at the left – one long ear is visible – along with two camels and a large feline animal.

COPY, DRAWING: London, British Museum, Malcolm Coll., no. 1895-9-15-556 (Fig.London, Lombard).  Pen and ink and wash over red chalk, 20.9 x 28.1.  LITERATURE: Antal, 1928-1929 (1966, 87, n. 5), as by Lambert Lombard (but wrongly as after Rosso’s Massacre of the Innocents).  Kusenberg, 1931, 148, no. 6, as a copy after the finished print.

Formerly attributed to Rosso, the drawing is now given to Lambert Lombard in the museum.  It is a rather free copy of the finished print.



See E.130, Anonymous, Mars and Venus.


1 The two words at the top of the print translate as: “rape of the Sabine women.”  The line at the bottom is a misquotation, with the last word changed, of a line in Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (bk. I, 1.131).  SEISTI on the print should be “SCISTI.”  The last word, TVIS, is solus in Ovid.  Ovid’s line can be translated as: “Ah, Romulus, thou only didst know how to bestow bounty on thy warriors” (Ovid 1929, 20-21).  The inscription on the engraving is translated: “Ah, Romulus, thou didst know how to bestow bounty on thy soldiers.”  The late Vassar College Professor James Day identified and translated the passage for me.

2 Borea, 1979, n. 77, thought the finished composition (States III and IV) was wholly newly engraved on another plate, but careful observation of the cutting and other “accidental” marks show that the plates are the same.