The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of his Sons

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

Before putting brush to canvas, David would work out his ideas on paper, each drawing a distinct step in an extended process of experimentation and refinement. In this compositional study, and another hanging nearby, the cast of characters from earlier versions has been reduced. Brutus broods in shadow while his wife Vitellia, illuminated in a pool of light, enacts a full-blown expression of grief. The artist has added a curtained wall that separates the domestic sphere at right from the gruesome scene of the corpses being carried in.

Certain elements, like the cap with "liberté" inscribed on its strap on a pole at left, are drawn in a different color ink. These may have been added by David after the flight of the French king in 1791 to retroactively give his composition a revolutionary gloss.

The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of his Sons, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Black chalk, pen and black and brown ink, brush and gray and brown wash, heightened with white gouache

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.