Lucretia and the origins of the Republic in Rome

Today is the International Museum Day and we want to celebrate it talking about one of the sculptures that we like the most of those exhibited at the MNAC, the great museum-book on the history of Catalan art that we have in Barcelona.

One of the pieces that most attracts our attention in the MNAC modern art collection is Lucretia. It is a work that not only represents the fight against the tyranny of the kings of Rome and the birth of the Roman Republic, but also idealizes the virtue of Lucretia who sacrifices herself to save the honor of her family. Lucretia has been represented by many and great artists, but the magnificent sculpture on display at the MNAC is the work of Damià Campeny.

Catalan Classicism

Damià Campeny (1781 – 1855) was a student and teacher at the Llotja, the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona and became the director of the sculpture section of the school. He worked in the sculptors’ workshop such as Salvador Gurri and Nicolau Travé and finally opened his own workshop where he carried out commissions for several parishes in Barcelona.

Campeny obtained a scholarship from the Board of Commerce to study in Rome where he lived for 18 years. There he met the sculptor Antonio Cánova, considered one of the best Italian neoclassicist sculptors and worked in a workshop in the Vatican where he sculpted pieces such as the Hercules Farnese or the Neptune.

During his stay in Italy he sent a series of works to the Barcelona Board of Trade and Lucretia was one of them. Three reproductions of the same sculpture are preserved. As it used to be done then, in 1804 the plaster copy arrived in Barcelona, ​​today preserved in the Víctor Balaguer Library-Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú; a marble version that is preserved in the Llotja de Barcelona and this magnificent bronze version exhibited at the MNAC.

Myth or Reality

Lucretia’s story is pretty sure a myth. However, the Roman historian Tito Livio tells us that during the siege of the city of Ardea a group of rather drunk Roman aristocrats debated which of their wives was the best.

Lucius Tarquinius Colatinus, a member of the ruling family in Rome at that time defended that his wife, Lucrecia, was the most virtuous. In order to prove it, they all went to the city and on arrival in Rome, they found all the women celebrating a party except Lucretia, who was at home knitting together with her servants. Upon the arrival of the men at her home, Lucrecia served dinner to her husband and her companions.

A short time later, Sixtus Tarquinius, nephew of the King of Rome, in love with Lucrecia, visited her at his home and raped her. After this fact, Lucrecia brought her husband and father to tell them what had happened. And after recounting it, he committed suicide by stabbing himself with a dagger.

Showing Lucrezia’s inert body, his relative Lucius Junius Brutus incited the people of Rome to revolt. The Tarquinius were forced to flee to Etruria and the Roman monarchy was replaced by the Republic.

The statue

Leaning back in a curule seat, the ivory chair used by the Roman ediles, Lucretia rests her feet in sandals on a second landing, where the stiletto that caused her death is located. The right arm rests on the thigh and the left one hangs freely. The torn dress, exposes the arms, neck and right breast. The wound on the left side, displaced from the heart, is a discreet cut from which a few drops of blood flow. The almost closed eyes and the half-open mouth help to create an expression of sweetness, placidity and peace.

What do you think of this sculpture? Do you like it? We are looking forward to seeing her again at the Museum and we are sure that we will be able to do so in a very short time. If you want us to accompany you on a visit to the MNAC the next time you visit Barcelona, ​​contact us and we will organize a visit adapted to your interest.

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