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Allegory of the Revolution in Nantes

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

The Revolution presented a challenge to French artists: is political transformation better portrayed through realism or allegory? David fused the two in this recently discovered study.

To represent a populace liberated from oppression, an array of figures—some nude, others in classical dress—are shown unshackled from their bonds and greeting their liberator as he descends the gangplank of a docked ship. Behind them, a carefully rendered topographical view identifies the setting as Nantes, a city on the Loire River in eastern France.

The image is constructed from several pieces of paper, cut and reassembled, as David made changes to the composition. Although he devoted months to making studies for this project, he would never complete the painting, having turned his attention to The Oath of the Tennis Court.

Allegory of the Revolution in Nantes, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, graphite, squared in graphite, on two joined and partially overlapping pieces of paper, with filled-in areas at the upper right and lower left corners

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