Jacques-Louis David was a noted neoclassicist artist who painted huge, heroic historical subjects. His subjects were both classical as well as contemprary Revolutionary and Naopelonic themes. He was proponent of the Revolution and voted for the execultion of Louis XVI. One of his masterpieces is the "Death of Marat". He almost lost his head in the Terror. The clasical theme, "The Sabine Women" was done in honor of his wife who saved him. He caught the eye
of Napoleon and masterpieces of Napoleon crossing the Alps and the Emperor's coromation are further masterpieves of French neoclassicism. After the fall of Napoleon he lived in exile in France, He did few portraits, but his rendeing of Louis XVII is perhaps the best image of the boy--although like most images of Louis XVIII, we are unsure about the accuracy of his portrayal.
David showed an aptitude for drawing as a boy. His mother sent him to François Boucher, a destinguished Paris artist who was a distant relative. Boucher who of advanced age realized that their temperaments were not suited for him to effectively teach the boy and sent him to another artist--Vien. David entered Vien's workshop 1769 and 2 years later in 1871 entered a work for the Prix de Rome. The Academy awarded the first price to him, but Vien was disturbed by the awatd, apparently jealous of his pipil's success. Vien claimed that his pupil had not received his permission to enter the work. He used his influence to have the award canceled. The Academy out of respect for the concern of the master painter decided to reduce David's sward to second place.
David entered the Prix de Rome again in 1792, but did not obtain any award. He was so disappointed that he thought of suiside and considered giving up painting. Finally in 1774, David with "The Loves of Antiochus and Siratonice" won first price which he coveted.
David went to Italy with Vien in 1776 at the age of 18. Vien had been appointed director of the French Academy at Rome and David had just won the Prix de Rome. Rome was important of course because of all the art treasures which could be studied. He lived in Rome until 1780 and was, in its turn, an agréé of the Academy, and then granted full membership in 1783. His paintings often depicted heroic scenes and were scene as a social and moral reaction to the frivolity of the Rococo.
He was proponent of the Revolution and voted for the execultion of Louis XVI. Even before the Revolution, his classical subjects depicted civic virtues and stoical self-sacrifice, devotion to duty, truthfulness, and austerity. A good example is the "The Oath of the Horatii" painted in 1784. His paintings during the Revolution showed his enthusiasm. His beautiful drawing of "Serment du Jeu de paume" is a good example. One of his masterpieces is the "Death of Marat". He wanted to put art at the service of the Revolution. His enthuisam for the Revolution almost him give up its art. He proposed to the Convention that the Academy of Rome be abolished. In the end, he almost lost his head in the Terror. He spent 7 months in the Luxembourg Prison. The clasical theme, "The Sabine Women" was done in honor of his wife who saved him.
The Directory named him to the Institute. There he caught the eye of General Napoleon who wanted to take him along with his expedition to Egypt. David who was at time involved in the painting of the "Sabine Women" declined. David became as ardent supporter of Napoleon as hehad been of the Revolution. When Napoleon had been crowned Emperor, he appointed David his first painter and entrusted with the painting of his official portraits and highlights of his reign. David thus regained the dominant social and artistic position which he had previously held under the Revolution. He paunted the Emperor with the same enthusiasm that he had painted revolutionaly scenes. Napoleon crossing the Alps and the Emperor's coromation are further masterpieces of French neoclassicism.
When Napoleon's Empire fell, David sought to reinvent himself. He had, however, taken such an active role in the Revolution for the restored Bourbon regime to forgive him. Condemned to the exile, he moved to Belgium. There he painted some portraits and more historical mythological scenes. Some art critics have described his work during this period as banal.
David died in 1825. His ashes were brought back to Paris and were buried with great pomp at the Sainte-Gudule church of Brussels.
David subordinated to color to drawing. In his paintings, realistic drawing was always foremost.
His subjects were both classical as well as contemprary Revolutionary and Naopelonic themes. A classical painting depicted the great Eastern Empire general, Belisarius, was was reducted to begging. He was proponent of the Revolution and voted for the execultion of Louis XVI. One of his masterpieces is the "Death of Marat". He almost lost his head in the Terror. The clasical theme, "The Sabine Women" was done in honor of his wife who saved him.
David painted portraits of Revolutionary leaders and Napoleon. Some of these are considerd to be among his masterpieces. He did portraits of lesserv quality while in exile in Brussels to support himself.
David occupies dominate place in the history of French art, not only because of the brilliance of his art, but because of the considerable influence which he exerted during the first half of 19th century on other artists. His classical paintings inspired considerable interest in clasical themes.
David is considered to be an important French master. Some argue that he is was not the brilliant artist that some allege. He was a very accurate drawer, but some maintain that his works were cold and lacking feeling.
This unattributed rendeing of Louis XVII is perhaps the best image of the boy--although like most images of Louis XVII, we are unsure about the accuracy of his portrayal. It is clearly the most professional rendering ever done of Louis XVII. Given his age it represents a time during which he was under arrest, probably after he was separated from his mother. As we do not think Revolutionary leaders would have permitted such a painting, this is probably a portrait done after the boy's death done by imagining what he may have looked like. One interesting aspect of this portrait is the quality of the drawing. It is actually of superior quality to the paintings done of the French royal family before the Revolution. Some have suggested that the artist may have been David. Perhaps it could have been done in an effort to win the good graces of Louis XVIII. But this is just speculation. Whatever the provinance of the portrait, it represents a good depiction of how a boy from an affluent family would have dressed in the late 19th century.
Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main individual A-L artist alphabetical page]
[Return to the Main Greek art page]
[Return to the Main Greek page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]