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Portrait of a Man

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

It was during a period of imprisonment in 1795 that David created one of his most singular and haunting achievements as a draftsman: a series of portraits of his fellow prisoners—all former allies of Maximilien Robespierre, a Revolutionary statesman who had led the bloody period known as the Terror.

In contrast to his usual schematic technique, David here uses careful ink lines and subtle gradations of wash to record his subjects with psychological intensity. They seem to face their uncertain futures with a mix of bravery and apprehension. The medallion format, associated with antiquity, suggests an urge to memorialize, but in this context it also evokes confinement.

Portrait of a Man, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, over traces of black chalk

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