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. As his commissions for Napoleon dried up, David returned to a mythological painting he had begun planning fifteen years earlier as a pendant (pairing) to the Intervention of the Sabine Women. It depicts the legendary Spartan king Leonidas, who would perish with three hundred soldiers at Thermopylae, where they were vastly outnumbered by the Persian army of Xerxes. In this working drawing, the artist’s evolving ideas appear laid down in a rush, perhaps intermittently, progressing from a pale initial sketch to emphatic revisions in a darker shade. 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.emingly oblivious to the tumult swirling around him, Leonidas maintains a statuesque stillness, lost in contemplation of his soldiers’ impending sacrifice.
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Title:Leonidas at Thermopylae
Artist:Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels)
Medium:Black chalk; squared in black chalk
Dimensions:16 x 21 5/8 in. (40.6 x 54.9 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1963
Marking: Lower right, paraphs of Eugène David (Lugt 839) and Jules David (Lugt 1437)
Jacques Louis David (French)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 (French); Galerie Wildenstein; Vendor: Wildenstein & Co., Inc.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Classicism and Romanticism. French Drawings and Prints," September 15–November 1, 1970.
Paris. Cabinet des dessins, Musée du Louvre. "Dessins français du Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York de David à Picasso," October 25, 1973–January 7, 1974.
Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York," 1979.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825," October 26, 1989–February 12, 1990.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," April 17–August 20, 1995.
Paris. Musée du Louvre. "Posséder et Détruire: Strategiés sexuelles dans l'art de L'Occident," April 10, 2000–July 10, 2000.
Los Angeles. J. Paul Getty Museum. "Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile," February 1, 2005–April 24, 2005.
Williamstown. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. "Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile," June 5, 2005–September 5, 2005.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 8–March 25, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman," February 17–May 15, 2022.
Bean and Turcic 1986.93
E. J. Delécluze, J.-P. Mouilleseaux Louis David, son école et son temps Nouvelle édition annotée par J.P. Nouilleseaux. Paris, 1983 [orig. 1855], pp. 264-265, ill.
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: New York Graphic Society, 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.
Arlette Sérullaz Dessins français de 1750 à 1825 dans les collections du Musée du Louvre: Le néo-classicisme. 1972, cat. no. under 56 & 59.
Steven A. Nash The Drawings of Jacques-Louis David: Selected Problems. PhD diss., 1973 fig. no. 163 & 164, pp. 140,143, 146, ill.
Jacob Bean, Linda Boyer Gillies, Cynthia Lambros, Roseline Bacou, Réunion des Musées Nationaux Dessins français du Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: de David à Picasso 54th Exposition de Cabinet des Dessins Musée du Louvre, 25 octobre 1973–7 janvier 1974. Paris, 1973, cat. no. 24, pp. 31-2, ill.
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.
David Draper, Joan R. Mertens Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Memories and Revivals of the Classical Spirit. Exh. cat., National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum, Athens. National Pinakothiki, Alexander Soutzos Museum, Athens, 1979, cat. no. 75, ill.
Antoine Schnapper David, témoin de son temps. Paris, 1980, fig. no. 175, p. 272.
Erik Fischer Tegninger of C.W. Eckersberg. Copenhagen, 1983, fig. no. 85, 1, pp. 173-174.
Arlette Sérullaz Autour de David: Dessins néo-classiques du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Exh cat. 1983, fig. no. 3, pp. 19, 20.
Thomas W. Gaehtgens "Jacques-Louis David: Leonidas bei den Thermopylen." In Ideal und Wirklichkeit der bildenden Kunst im späten 18.Jahrhunderts. 1984, fig. no. 14, p. 235 note 37,, ill.
Luc de Nanteuil Jacques-Louis David. New York, 1985, fig. no. 48, p. 35.
Jacob Bean, Lawrence Turčić 15th-18th Century French Drawings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, cat. no. 93, pp. 90-91, ill.
J. J. Lévêque La Vie et l'oeuvre de Jacques-Louis David. Paris, 1989, fig. no. repr. p. 167, ill.
B. Noël David. French / English edition. Vaduz - New York, 1989.
Warren Roberts Jacques-Louis David. Revolutionary Artist: Art, Politics, and the French Revolution. Chapel Hill & London, 1989, fig. no. 80, p. 183.
Antoine Schnapper, Arlette Sérullaz Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825. Ex. cat. Paris and Versailles, 1989, cat. no. under 217, 224, pp. 630, 493, 49.
Arlette Sérullaz Musée du Louvre, Cabinet des dessins. Inventaire général des dessins. Ecole français. Dessins de Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825.. Paris, 1991.
Dorothy Johnson Jacques-Louis David: Art in Metamorphosis. Princeton, 1993, p. 295 note 90, fig. no. 89, pp. 166, 168, ill.
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.
Pierre Rosenberg, Louis-Antoine Prat Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825: Catalogue raisonné des dessins. 2 vols., Milan, 2002, cat. no. 317 (vol. I), p. 299, ill.
Philippe Bordes Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile. Exh. cat., J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Calif., 1 Feb.-24 April, 2005 and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., 5 June-5 Sept., 2005. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2005, cat. no. 25, pp. 196-204, ill.
Satish Padiyar Chains, David, Canova, and the Fall of the Public Hero in Postrevolutionary France. University Park, PA, 2007, pp.27-28, ill.
Louis-Antoine Prat Le Dessin français au XIXe siècle. Somogy Editions d'Art, Paris, 2011, fig. no. 112, 62, ill.
Perrin Stein, Daniella Berman, Philippe Bordes, Mehdi Korchane, Benjamin Peronnet, Louis-Antoine Prat, Juliette Trey Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman. New York, 2022, cat. no. 75, 239, 241-43, ill.
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