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Leonidas at Thermopylae

Artist:
Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels)
Date:
ca. 1814
Medium:
Black chalk, squared in black chalk
Dimensions:
16 x 21 5/8 in. (40.6 x 54.9 cm)
Classification:
Drawings
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1963
Accession Number:
63.1
Not on view
This is a compositional study for David's large canvas of the same subject, signed and dated 1814 and today in the Musée du Louvre, Paris. The drawing was executed in two distinct stages, offering a view into the artist's creative process. Over a detailed, lightly sketched composition David reworked the sheet in a darker, more emphatic black chalk, refining and simplifying the landscape and figures, especially on the right side. Leonidas, leader of the Spartan troops, is shown calm and unwavering as his men prepare to battle the Persians at the pass of Thermopylae. Many of the poses and figural types used by David refer to classical prototypes, as does the practice—debated during David's time—of depicting classical warriors nude.
Marking: [pen and brown ink, lower right corner of recto]: monograms of Eugène David (Lugt 839) and Jules David (Lugt 1437), the artist's sons, who affixed their monograms to certain of their father's drawings at the time of the atelier sale on April 17, 1826
Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels)vente David, Paris, Apriil 17, 1826 and following days, part of lot 92 (with two other "compositions au trait" for the Léonidas); Jean Oberlé; Henri Baderou; Galerie Wildenstein (France); Vendor: Wildenstein & Co., Inc. (New York)
National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," 1979.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Classicism and Romanticism. French Drawings and Prints," September 15, 1970–November 1, 1970.

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Musée du Louvre, Paris. "Posséder et Détruire: Strategiés sexuelles dans l'art de L'Occident," April 10, 2000–July 10, 2000.

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Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. "Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile," June 5, 2005–September 5, 2005.

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Bean and Turcic 1986.93
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Jacob Bean, Dietrich von Bothmer "A propos du 'Leonida aux Thermopiles' de David. I. Un dessin inédit au Métropolitan Museum." Revue du Louvre. 14e. Annee, vol. 6, Paris, 1964, fig. no. 1, p. 327.

Jacob Bean 100 European Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York Graphic Society, New York, 1964, fig. no. 1, pp. 327, 329, ill.

Linda Boyer Gillies, Colta Ives, Jacob Bean Classicism and Romanticism: French Drawings and Prints, 1800-1860. Ex. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1970, cat. no. 16, p. 3.

The Age of Neo-classicism. Ex. cat., September 9 - November 19. Victoria and Albert Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, London, September 9–November 19, 1972, cat. no. 556, p. 82, ill.

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Steven A. Nash "The Compositional Evolution of David's Leonidas at Thermopylae." in The Metropolitan Museum Journal. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 13, New York, 1978, note 5, p. 106, 109-111, fig. no. 2, pp. 103, 104.

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Régis Michel Posséder et détruire, Stratégies sexuelles dans l'art d'Occident. Exh. cat., musée du Louvre, Hall Napoleon du 10 avril au 10 juillet 2000. 2000, cat. no. 51, pp. 111, 121-3, ill.

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Chains, David, Canova, and the Fall of the Public Hero in Postrevolutionary France. University Park, PA, 2007, pp.27-28, ill.



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