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Caracalla Killing His Brother Geta in the Arms of His Mother

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

In the early 1780s, eager to establish his reputation, David explored on paper many potential subjects, not all of which were committed to canvas. One such abandoned project was the story of Caracalla, a dark tale of a tyrannical ruler from the late Roman Republic. The emperor Septimius Severus, upon his death, had designated both of his sons, Geta and Caracalla, as successors. Caracalla, desiring to rule alone, murdered his brother in the arms of his mother, Julia Domna. For this act, he would later be berated by the ghost of his father.

David was often drawn to brutal subjects from antiquity but, in the end, would deem the violence unsuitable for painting, preferring instead scenes of prelude or aftermath.

Caracalla Killing His Brother Geta in the Arms of His Mother, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white, over black chalk

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