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The Triumph of the French People

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

David here adopts the classical form of the triumphal procession, an elaborate ritual first organized for victorious generals in the ancient Roman Republic. His depiction celebrates the bravery of the French people who rose up to overthrow the monarchy. In a hybrid assembly, a chariot bearing allegorical figures is joined by historical characters and a band of contemporary martyrs, all displaying their wounds in dramatic gestures.

By juxtaposing the ancient Roman consul Brutus, brandishing the paper that condemns his traitorous sons to death, with the Revolutionary hero Jean Paul Marat, kneeling and baring his chest, David is fusing not only two historical periods, but two aspects of his own career: the history painter and the artist of the Revolution.

The Triumph of the French People, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and brown and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white, over graphite and black chalk, squared and partially numbered (1–3 at lower left; 1–6 above the figural group at left) in graphite, with one irregularly shaped fragment of paper affixed to the sheet

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