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The Continence of Scipio

A work made of oil on canvas.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.


c. 1706


Sebastiano Ricci
Italian, 1659-1734

About this artwork

This painting depicts a scene from the life of Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal in the Battle of Zama (in present-day Tunisia) in 202 BCE. Here Scipio demonstrates his leadership by acting with restraint (“continence”) in refusing to hold a woman as a captive of war. According to the story on which the painting is based, the woman’s fiancé, shown kneeling beside her, was a powerful prince who agreed to a military alliance with Scipio in gratitude for his lenience. The theatrical setting and costumes—the invented military helmets, anachronistically dressed characters, fanciful architecture, and gravity-defying drapery, for example— suggest that the artist’s aims were allegorical rather than historical, intended above all to illustrate for viewers the virtues of compassionate diplomacy.


On View, Gallery 215


Painting and Sculpture of Europe


Sebastiano Ricci


The Continence of Scipio


Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


140 × 182 cm (55 × 71 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Preston O. Morton Memorial Fund

Reference Number


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