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Belisarius Begging for Alms

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

Toward the end of his time in Italy, David began to develop ideas for compositions that would announce his new style, one of sober subjects and monumental figures aligned with the picture plane. This drawing, presumably made in Naples, was inspired by a 1767 novel by Jean François Marmontel centered around the legend of the Byzantine general Belisarius, reduced in his old age to begging on the streets.

Two years later, David was accepted into the Académie Royale, the prestigious visual arts institution supported by the king, after submitting a painting based on the design. It would hang, along with a dozen or so other canvases, as part of the artist’s impressive debut at the Salon of 1781, an exhibition mounted in the building that today houses the Musée du Louvre.

Belisarius Begging for Alms, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white gouache, on faded blue paper

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