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The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

Conceived in the years leading up to the Revolution, The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons was not exhibited until 1789, after the storming of the Bastille. The painting’s subject, part of the legend of the founding of the first Roman Republic following the overthrow of a corrupt king, would resonate with French audiences as political change transformed their own country.

Roman consul Lucius Junius Brutus, seated in the shadows at lower left, discovered his sons embroiled in a plot to restore the monarchy and ordered their execution; lictors (Roman officers) have arrived bearing their corpses. To explore every psychological nuance of this wrenching story, David made a great many studies. In these early ideas for the composition, Brutus’s household appears crowded, compressed, and chaotic.

The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, squared in black chalk

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