The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Roman Fleet Victorious over the Carthaginians at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus

Object Details


The Roman Fleet Victorious over the Carthaginians at the Battle of Cape Ecnomus


Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin (French, 1724 - 1780)




France (Place Created)


about 1763


Watercolor, gouache, pen and India and brown ink over black chalk

Object Number:



21.5 × 39.6 cm (8 7/16 × 15 9/16 in.)

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Object Description

The sea teems with a seemingly endless fleet of warships; a vast battle looms, ships crowd closer and closer to one another. Rows of oars froth up the sea, the frenzied water foreshadowing the impending combat. Standing at opposite ends of the two central ships are the leaders of warring factions. On one deck is the stoic Roman general Regulus, commanding his followers as they attempt to board an enemy ship. Opposing Regulus is the Carthaginian leader Hamilcar Barca, father of the famed general Hannibal. In fanciful reference to Hannibal, the Carthaginian prows are elephant heads armed with imposing ramming tusks.

Gabriel Jacques de Saint-Aubin meticulously described every detail of the foreground ships. He first drew the composition in black chalk and then used pen and ink to further articulate details of the ships, such as their masts and riggings, and the myriad figures. Using a limited palette of deftly applied watercolor--gray, brown, and blue--Saint-Aubin sensitively colored the sea and sky.

The first Punic War (264-241 BC) was a conflict largely fought at sea. Involving over three hundred vessels, the battle depicted here was one of the largest navel battles in history. The smaller Roman fleet defeated the Carthaginian by dividing their forces into four squadrons and waging four separate battles.

This drawing is one of a series of illustrations Saint-Aubin made in the 1760s for an ambitious history of Rome. Engravings after drawings as well as maps were to accompany this multi-volume series which was never completed. In 1789, twenty-nine engraved plates from Saint-Aubin's drawings illustrated a more modest Roman history.

March 19, 2004

Hôtel Drouot [lot 56]

The Arts of France from Francois Ier to Napoléon Ier (October 26, 2005 to January 6, 2006) (catalogue by J. Baillio)
  • Wildenstein & Co. (New York), October 26, 2005 to January 6, 2006
Gabriel de Saint-Aubin (October 30, 2007 to May 26, 2008)
  • The Frick Collection (New York), October 30, 2007 to January 27, 2008
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), February 21 to May 26, 2008
Recent Acquisitions in Context (July 28 to November 1, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 28 to November 1, 2009
Rococo to Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections (July 1 to September 21, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 1 to September 21, 2014