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The Rape of Hippodamia
Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop
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Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop

Siegen, Westphalia (Germany), 1577 - Antwerp (Belgium), 1640

Rubens, Peter Paul See author's file

The Rape of Hippodamia

1636 - 1637. Oil on canvas.
Room 079

Like Fortuna (P1674) and the Marriage of Peleus and Thetis (P1634), the Rape of Hippodamia was part of the massive cycle of mythologies designed by Peter Paul Rubens in 1636-37 for the Torre de la Parada, Philip IV´s newly constructed hunting lodge on the outskirts of Madrid. The oil sketch for this picture, now in Brussels (Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique), was largely replicated in the full-size canvas. The work was undoubtedly painted by Rubens himself, because he freely changed the position of the arms of the centaur, who wields a club as he holds a woman with his left arm at the upper-right corner. This kind of significant compositional change would likely not have been undertaken by an assistant. A rare surviving red chalk drawing executed by Rubens in relation to the Torre de la Parada cycle (Fromer W. Burchard Collection, Farnham) demonstrates the artist´s attempt to work out the elements of the composition even prior to the oil sketch, particularly in the central grouping with the female figure. The drawing focuses on the two principal figural groupings (in four separate groups) with variations, plus an added scene of Hercules wrestling a bull or an ox. In Rubens´s dynamic representation, the scene bursts forth horizontally, from left to right. A favorite contrast between civilization and bestiality on Greek temple decorations such as the Parthenon metopes, the scene derives from Ovid´s Metamorphoses (XII, 210-335). The hybrid monsters, half-horse and half-man, make a drunken attempt to abduct the bride Deidamia (more commonly known as Hippodamia) at her wedding to Pirithous, king of the Lapiths. Led by Eurytion (Eurytus in Ovid), the centaurs are spurred on by Mars, who was insulted at not being invited. Hippodamia is rescued by the Athenian hero Theseus, who is the epitome of bravery and manhood as well as of order triumphing over chaos. In Rubens´s formulation (much like his depictions of another classical subject from Roman history, the Rape of the Sabine Women), the passive female victim must be rescued by her active male hero. In this work, the fair heroine swoons at the center of the composition, as she leans backward toward Theseus while still in the clutches of the bearded Eurytus. An older woman who attempts to restrain the bride falls to the ground, clinging to her bright red skirt, while an older man in the left rear leads two other young women away to indoor safety. Theseus´s two strong, young friends leap boldly to his assistance, toppling wine and fruit from the table of the wedding feast. Their strength matches that of the centaurs but also points subtly to the resemblance between both groups. Rather than revealing the outcome of the battle, Rubens depicts the scene as a moment of great tension, emphasizing the contrast between Hippodamia´s twisted and helpless form and the heightened musculature of the men around her. Rife with violence, disruption, and deception among gods and men, the mythological stories depicted in the Torre de la Parada cycle can be read as cautionary tales fit for contemplation by a ruler. For example, the disruption of a wedding, normally the occasion for the happy union of two houses, points to the disintegration of civil order due to the passions of men (and gods), which can be seen as an object lesson for the king of a large empire. The painting was installed within the entire mythological ensemble inside a grand room of the Torre de la Parada, yet the precise sequence of the original installation is unknown. At some point in the eighteenth century, the painting was moved to the New Royal Palace in Madrid; a series of inventories (made in 1772, 1794, and 1814-18) indicate that it was displayed in at least three different locations within the apartments of the royal children. Despite its nudity and violent theme, the painting was not among those relegated to the sala reservada (Text drawn from Silver, L.: Splendor, Myth, and Vision. Nudes from the Prado, 2016, pp. 128-133).


Technical data

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Inventory number
Rubens, Peter Paul and workshop
The Rape of Hippodamia
1636 - 1637
Height: 182.5 cm; Width: 285.5 cm
Torre de la Parada
Royal Collection (Torre de la Parada, El Pardo-Madrid, Pieza sexta, 1701, s.n.; Torre de la Parada, Pieza quarta, 1747 nº 46; Palacio Nuevo, Madrid, Cuarto del infante don Javier, 1772, nº 994; Palacio Nuevo, Antecámara de las señoras infantas-pieza encarnada a la derecha, 1794, nº 994; Palacio Nuevo, Dormitorio de príncipes-pieza primera, 1814-1818, nº 994; Museo Real de pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, Salón 2º Escuela Flamenca, Madrid, 1834, nº 257)

Bibliography +

Rooses, Max, Rubens. S. VIe et Ses Oeuvres, Flammarion, Paris, 1903, pp. 596-599.

Corpus rubenianum Ludwig Burchard: an illustrated catalogue, IX, Arcade Press, Londres, 1968, pp. 229-231.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de pinturas. Escuela flamenca, Museo del Prado; Patrimonio Nacional de Museos, Madrid, 1975, pp. 243.

Díaz Padrón, Matías, El siglo de Rubens en el Museo del Prado: catálogo razonado, Prensa Ibérica, Barcelona, 1995, pp. 908.

Vergara, Alejandro, The Presence of Rubens in Spain. (Volumes i and II). Tesis D, A Bell & Howell Company, Ann Arbor, 1999, pp. 420.

García Gual, C., 'Relato mítico y momento pictórico. Rubens y Ovidio'. En Historias inmortales, Barcelona, 2003, pp. 281-298.

Classical mythology in the Netherlands in the age of Renaiss..., Peeters, Amberes, 2009.

Georgievska-Shine, Aneta Silver, Larry, Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain, Ashgate, Surrey, 2014, pp. 38-39 Lám.6 fg.2.10.

Silver, L, 'Peter Paul Rubens. rape of Hippodamia'' En:, Splendor, Myth, and Vision : Nudes from the Prado, Clark Art Institute ; Museo Nacional del Prado,, 2016, pp. 128-132 n.15.

Silver, L, 'Ruben's Myths for the Rey Planeta at the Torre de la Parada' En: The Age of Rubens: diplomacy, dynastic politics and the visual arts in Early Seventeenth century., Brepols,, 2016, pp. 235-254 [245 f.9].

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 1216.
Rubens. / 1216. El combate de los lapitas. / Teseo defiende a Hipodamia del centauro Eurito, que en el banquete de las bodas de la misma pretende arrebatarla, mientras su esposo Piritoo se abalanza furioso hacia su insolente enemigo, y principia de este modo la célebre refriega entre centauros y lapitas (C.L.) / Alto 6 pies, 6 pulg; ancho 10 pies, 3 pulg.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1873-1907. Núm. 1579.
1579.-(1216-M.)-Lapitas y Centauros.-Pasaje de la historia mítica de la Tesalia. El centauro Eurito interrumpe las bodas de Pirithoo é Hipodamia abalanzándose á ésta para robarla; y comienza con este hecho la famosa guerra entre Lapitas y Centauros. (Véase nuestro Catálogo extenso.)-Figuras de tamaño natural. / Col. de Carlos II, Torre de la Parada.-C. L.-F.L. / Alto 1,82; ancho 2,90.-L.

Museo Real de Pinturas a la muerte de Fernando VII, 1834. Núm. 257.
Salon 2º Escuela Flamenca Doscientos cincuenta y siete. El combate de las Léspitas: Tesco defiende a Hipodamia del Centauro Eusito de Rubens Lº 40.500

Inv. Felipe V, Torre de la Parada, 1747. Núm. 46.
Pieza quarta [...] 46 / Otro de tres varas y media de ancho y dos y quarta de alto el Robo de Elena con su marco dorado 1000

Inv. Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1772. Núm. 994.
Quarto del Infante Don Xavier [...] 994 - 995 / Torre = Dos iguales fábulas el vno del robo de Centauros a vnas mugeres y otros que las defienden en que hay vna mesa redonda con sus comestibles y el otro de Argos quando Mercurio le corta la cabeza de tres varas y media de largo y mas de dos de caida originales de escuela flamenca

Inv. Fernando VII, Palacio Nuevo, 1814-1818. Núm. 994.
Dormitorio de Principes [...] Pieza Primera [...] 994 / Riña entre Centauros y Lapitas = escuela de Rubens

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Palacio Nuevo, 1794. Núm. 994.
Antecamara de las Sªs. Ynfantas [...] Pieza encarnada á la Derecha [...] 994 / Tres varas y quarta de largo y dos quartas de alto: Riña entre Centauros y Lapitas. Escuela de Rubens ... 4000

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Torre de la Parada, 1701-1703. Núm. s.n..
Pieza Sexta [...] {7517} Vna pintura de tres varas y media de ancho de las bodas de los Lapitas y Centauros de mano de Rubenes tasada en dos cientos doblones = Conducida al Pardo

Inscriptions +

Inscribed in red color. Front, lower left corner

Inscribed in orange. Front, lower left corner

Exhibitions +

[Exposición sin confirmar] A History of Spain. Treasures of the Museo del Prado. From El Greco to Goya.
01.01.2023 - 01.01.2023

Splendor, Myth and Vision: Nudes from the Prado
Williamstown MA
12.06.2016 - 10.10.2016

05.11.2010 - 23.01.2011

La obra invitada. Bilbao
27.04.2010 - 05.09.2010

Rubens, a Genius at Work (Rubens and the Brussels Museums)
14.09.2007 - 10.02.2008

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
14.07.2006 - 15.10.2006

De Tiziano a Goya. Obras maestras del Museo del Prado
24.03.2006 - 02.07.2006

Location +

Room 079 (On Display)


Displayed objects +


Lances / Spears

Fountain / Source

Pitchers / Jugs


Update date: 01-01-2023 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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