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The Combat of Diomedes

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

This virtuoso drawing speaks to David’s boundless ambition at the outset of his study in Rome. Inspired by the panoramic battle scenes of his Baroque and Mannerist predecessors (Giulio Romano, Pietro da Cortona, and Charles Le Brun), David here presents a roiling battlefield, filled to bursting with ancient warriors, gods, and horse-drawn chariots.

On an exceptionally large sheet, David combines several of the mythical hero Diomedes’s exploits from Homer’s Iliad into a single, operatic fray. One of the most valiant Greek warriors of the Trojan War, Diomedes was favored by Athena. With her divine help, he wounded both the Trojan fighter Aeneas and Aeneas’s mother, the goddess Aphrodite—an episode highlighted at the center of David’s composition.

The Combat of Diomedes, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, black chalk, heightened with
white, on three joined sheets of gray-blue paper

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