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The Death of Bara

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

David’s portrayal of the death of the fourteen-year-old French revolutionary Joseph Bara was painted during a tumultuous period. Bara was killed in a skirmish with Royalists in 1793, and according to Maximilien Robespierre, had responded to the cry "Long live the king!" with "Long live the Republic!" David painted him expiring on the ground, naked and alone rather than in the midst of battle, forcing the viewer to confront the profound character of his sacrifice on behalf of the Revolution.
It is probable that this work was left unfinished, although that conclusion is sometimes debated. It is painted with a thin brown pigment pulled across the canvas in a technique called frottis found in other incomplete works by David. This haunting work remained in his studio until he died, after which it was identified as an ébauche (sketch), indicating that it was then considered unfinished.

The Death of Bara, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Oil on canvas

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