Romulus, who along with his twin brother Remus is one of the central characters in Rome's foundation myth, celebrates his victory over King Acron of the Caeninenses by erecting a trophy made from the arms of the vanquished king.

This sketch is a modello designed by Rubens for a series of tapestries. Once the design was approved by his patron, Rubens' workshop would have created a full-sized cartoon to be sent to a specialized tapestry workshop. Working from the back of the tapestry, the weaver would have created a mirror image of the original design, thus accounting for Romulus’s sword being placed incorrectly on his right side in this sketch.


  • Title: Romulus setting up a Trophy
  • Date: c. 1625-7
  • Physical Dimensions: w168 x h510 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Nationality: Flemish
  • Support: Panel
  • Provenance: ? Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741); Venice, Consul Joseph Smith (Flemish and Dutch painting, no. 39: 'A soldier, man with military trophy on board'); sold to George III, 1762; London, Noel Desenfans, 1804-1807: 1804 Insurance List, no. 26 ('Achilles contemplating armour'. £60); London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: The story of Romulus and Acron is recounted in a number of classical sources. After the establishment of the city Romulus set out to remedy the lack of women by abducting them from the Sabines nearby. One of the Sabine rulers, Acron, king of Caeninenses, sent an army against Rome in retaliation but the two kings agreed to fight each other in single combat, with Romulus vowing to Jupiter Feretrius that if he won he would dedicate his adversary’s armour to the god. Romulus won the dual, incorporated the citizens of the vanquished city into Rome, and erected the trophy, as depicted here by Rubens. This sketch must have been a model for either a print or a tapestry, as the soldier wears his sword on his right side (which normally would have been on his left side). The panel’s thin shape indicates it was most probably meant for a tapestry, and specifically for a panel to be hung between windows
  • Artist: Rubens, Sir Peter Paul
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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