The Continence of Scipio

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The Continence of Scipio 1530 - 1535
Scipio Africanus was a general in the Roman army who led a victory over the Carthaginians and captured the Spanish city of New Carthage during the second Punic War (218-202 BC). As a victory prize, Scipio was offered a beautiful maiden, but having heard that she was engaged to another man, he declined the offer and returned the girl to her fiancé. The story is recounted in Livy’s ‘History of Rome’, and was held up as a model of how gracious power can be when exercised with morality and compassion. Here, Pordenone shows the surprise on the faces of Scipio’s soldiers as he commands them to release the girl to her astonished fiancé. The couple beneath the left archway are the girl’s parents, who had brought a chest of gold in an attempt to pay for their daughter’s release.


  • Acc. No. RSA 923
  • Medium Pen and wash, heightened with white, over black chalk on blue paper
  • Size 19.60 x 25.00 cm
  • Credit David Laing Bequest to the Royal Scottish Academy on loan 1974