Lucretia by Damià Campeny

  • Description

  • Work's History

Damià Campeny’s work represents Lucretia reclining in a curule chair, that is, an ivory chair like the ones used by the Roman magistrates, set on a rectangular base. She rests her sandaled feet on a second step. Here, clean and as far removed from the figure as is possible, lies the dagger with which she has taken her life. Her right arm rests on her thigh and her left arm hangs loose. Her robe, partially torn, reveals her arms, neck and right breast. The mortal wound, in her left side, is a little removed from the position of the heart. It is a discreet cut from which a few small drops of blood flow. Lucretia’s eyes are almost closed and her mouth is slightly open: her face has an expression of tranquillity, tenderness and peace.

«What could be worse than living without honour? That is the cruellest death, it is the worst death. Yes, yes: Let's end my disgraced life; I cannot live more, being dishonoured. I lived for honour, I lived in virtue: I stop living when everything is lost. Such a happy life, I cannot suffer it; my heart is troubled and I would prefer to die.» Joan Ramis i Ramis, Lucrècia o Roma libre

Lucretia is Damià Campeny’s best-known and most important work. The author created it in Rome, in 1803, and the following year he had it transported to Barcelona. The statue was very highly appreciated, and the School of Fine Arts used it as a model for its students for a long time. In 1833, the Board of Trade agreed to transform the work from plaster to marble, and Damià Campeny called in an Italian master to rough-hew the work: he spent five months on the task, and Campeny then spent almost an entire year finishing the work.

According to tradition, Lucretia was a Roman noblewoman, the wife of Tarquinius Collatinus. Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the king of Rome and a cousin of Collatinus, fell in love with her, and one night, taking advantage of the husband’s absence, entered Lucretia’s chamber and raped her. The next day Lucretia called her father and her husband to tell them what had happened, demanded revenge from them and then took her own life by plunging a dagger into her breast. Collatinus incited the people to revolt, and the king and his sons were expelled from Rome. This event marked the end of the Roman monarchy and the start of the Republican period.

During the revolution of September 1868, the statue came close to being destroyed. Rebels entered the Llotja and damaged all the coats of arms and royal portraits they found along the way, along with a large part of the documentation in the Board of Trade’s archives. The sculptor Frederic Marès described how, in one of the halls, a group of rebels came across what they thought was a statue of Queen Isabel II. It is easy to understand their indignation on finding themselves in front of the figure against whom they had taken up arms. They decided to throw the statue over the balcony, but due to its extraordinary weight they could only drag it a short distance.

Once they had abandoned the plan, someone convinced them that the figure portrayed was not the dethroned monarch but Lucretia, "the Roman patrician who killed herself rather than see the Republic dishonoured." Insults turned into acclaim, and one of the rebels crowned the figure with a Phrygian cap and placed at the base of the statue an improvised sign reading “Saint Lucretia, patron saint of the Republic.”


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Author's works
at the Llotja de Mar

  • Lucretia

    Damia Campeny 
  • Diana the Huntress

    Damia Campeny 
  • Janua caeli

    Damia Campeny 
  • Mastiff

    Damia Campeny