The present model of The Rape of a Sabine is demonstrative of an interesting evolutionary step in Giambologna's iconography and methodology. The concept was first born out of the artist's Mercury abducting a Woman group, which the artist mentions in a letter to his one-time patron Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma: 'Havevo apunto compito et rinettato il gruppo delle due Figure di Bronzo che io promessi a V. Ecc. Ill. Ma di volerli fare quin li mandaj il Mercurio e la Femina ('I have just completed and chased the bronze group of two figures which I promised your most Illustrious Excellency to make when I sent you the Mercury and the Woman', Filangieri di Candida, op. cit., pp. 20-21). From the two-figure group - eventually also known as The Rape of a Sabine - the artist discovered that the weakest point, structurally, was at the ankles and, therefore, to reproduce it on a larger scale in marble or bronze a modification would be required. This came in the form of a third figure, a Sabine man, who reinforced the composition from the base. While the figure offered structural stability, it also gave Giambologna the opportunity to demonstrate his skills in composition, and the result was a group that could be viewed intelligibly from virtually every angle and that was astonishing in its use of complex spiralling and interweaving forms.
The success of this model led Giambologna to create, between 1581 and 1583, the colossal marble group of the The Rape of a Sabine in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. This group was universally celebrated and, as a result, bronze reductions were requested from patrons all across Europe. It is, therefore, from this productive output that the present lot probably derives. With drawings and engravings of the original circulating freely throughout the continent, reproductions were created in France, Flanders, Germany and Italy. Due to the fact that the present lot is larger than Giambologna's original bronzes and has variations to the base - such as the armour and foliage - it cannot have come from the original moulds, and is unlikely to have originated in Italy. It is possible, however, that author of the present bronze is French due to the treatment of the foliage and the representation of armour strewn on the ground, as well as the dark patination and seemingly lower copper content to the alloy.