Study for 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
Sheet: 13 1/16 x 16 9/16 in. (33.2 x 42.1 cm)
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 2006
Not on view
This sheet is a compositional study for The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons (Musée du Louvre, Paris), which Jacques Louis David painted on the eve of the French Revolution and exhibited shortly after the fall of the Bastille in 1789. The subject, drawn from Roman history, found great resonance in the context of contemporary events. The canvas depicts an episode from the life of Lucius Junius Brutus, who put an end to the brutal regime of Tarquin, Rome's last king, and established the first Roman Republic, only later to find his two sons embroiled in a royalist conspiracy. True to his political convictions, Brutus condemned his sons to death. The novelty of David's painting is its focus, not on the executions but on the wrenching domestic aftermath. David's fully formed Neoclassical style can be seen here in the clean geometry of the architectural setting, the arrangement of the figures in a relieflike plane, the linear treatment of the forms, and the cool monochrome palette. The furniture and accessories and the poses of the main figures, from the brooding Brutus at the left to his anguished wife and daughters at the right, are all based on antiquities David copied while he was a student in Rome.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Signature: In pen and black ink at lower left, "L David./ 1787."
Inscription: In pen and black ink on plinth, "DEA ROMA:, and just below, in pen and brown ink on the pedestal, "FUGAT[obscured]S. REGIBUS." (The goddess Rome, after the kings have been put to flight)
Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel , Munich
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 8, 2007–March 25, 2007.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 11, 2010–April 11, 2010.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Paper Chase: Two Decades of Collecting Drawings and Prints," December 9, 2014–March 16, 2015.
Stijn Alsteens, Carmen C. Bambach, Constance C. McPhee, Nadine Orenstein, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2006-2007." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 65, no. 2, New York, Fall 2007, p. 35, ill.
Perrin Stein "Crafting the Neoclassical: Two new Drawings for Jacques-Louis David's 'The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons." Master Drawings. vol. 47, 2009, fig. no. 13, pp. 226--34, ill.
Louis-Antoine Prat Additions au corpus dessiné de David: Feuilles isolées Artistes, musées et collections: Un hommage à Antoine Schnapper. Véronique Gerard-Powell, Paris, 2016, fig. no. 7, p. 298, ill.