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Work Romulus and Remus Given Shelter by Faustulus

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

Romulus and Remus Given Shelter by Faustulus

© 1997 RMN / Daniel Arnaudet

Paintings
Italian painting

Author(s):
Dollfus Corinne

The legend of the founders of Rome is told most notably by Livy: born of the god Mars and the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, the twin brothers were set adrift in a cradle on the Tiber River.

The legend of the founding of Rome

In his writings Livy (Titus Livius) recounts the origins of the Eternal City. Twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, born of the god Mars and the vestal priestess Rhea Silvia, were set adrift on the Tiber River in a cradle. They were discovered by Faustulus, the herdsman of the king of Alba's flocks. The scene shows the shepherd bringing one of the abandoned children to his wife. With his left hand he indicates the presence of the other child, suckled by the she-wolf, to the right. The man's face displays an unshakeable will. The woman leaves her work and accepts the newborn into her arms: this saving gesture sets the ground for the foundation of Rome and the destruction of Alba. A dove, symbolizing Venus, mother of Aeneas and thus ancestor to the twins, alights on the thatched roof of an open structure, within which a servant is busy at her tasks.

A baroque rhetoric

The monumental character of the figures and the tanned skin of the men, in contrast to the pearly complexion of the women in antique dress, accentuate the work's dynamism and sense of fantasy. The hands lead the viewer to the primary center of action. The scene's legibility partakes of the preoccupations of the baroque style.
The eye is drawn to a patch of blue sky, which reveals the immensity of the surrounding area. The rustic setting evokes genre painting and the theme of the Adoration of the Shepherds - creating a union of ancient morals and Christian virtue.

A prestigious destination

This work comes from the collection of Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière, secretary of state to Louis XIV. With nine other works of the same dimensions inspired by Greek and Roman historical themes, this collection was destined to adorn the Hôtel de Toulouse in Paris, today the Banque de France. Guido Reni's painting The Abduction of Helen, also in the Louvre, was perhaps the first work to find a place in this gallery.

Technical description

  • Pietro BERRETTINI, known as Pierre de CORTONE (Cortone, 1597 - Rome, 1669)

    Romulus and Remus Given Shelter by Faustulus

    c. 1643

    Le musée du Louvre conserve cinq des tableaux peints par le Guerchin, Nicolas Poussin, Guido Reni, Alessandro Turchi et Pierre de Cortone qui figuraient jusqu'à la Révolution dans la galerie de l'hôtel parisien de Louis Phélypeaux de La Vrillière (ac

  • H. 2.51 m; W. 2.65 m

  • Entered the Louvre in 1794

    INV. 111

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Grande Galerie
    Room 12

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Additional information about the work

The legend of the founders of Rome is told most notably by Livy: born of the god Mars and the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, the twin brothers were set adrift in a cradle on the Tiber River.