The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

Object Details

Title:

The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons

Artist/Maker(s):

Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748 - 1825)

Culture:

French

Date:

1787

Medium:

Pen and black ink and gray wash

Dimensions:

32.7 x 42.1 cm (12 7/8 x 16 9/16 in.)

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"Through his Brutus as through his Horatii, [Jacques-Louis] David talks to the people more directly and more clearly than all the inflammatory writers whom the regime has confiscated and burned," wrote a contemporary about Jacques-Louis David's paintings. David made this study in preparation for the well-known painting completed in 1789, the year of the French Revolution. Although it created a republican political sensation at the Salon, he had almost certainly not intended that reaction. He had chosen the subject from Roman history to satisfy a commission from King Louis XVI.

After Brutus, founder of the Roman Republic, drove out the kings, he followed Roman code and condemned his own sons to death because they had supported the monarchy. Lictors, or Roman officers, bring in his sons' bodies for burial, while Brutus sits impassively in the shadow of the goddess Roma. In contrast, his brightly lit wife and daughters succumb to grief at the sight of the corpses. David aimed for absolute historical correctness in figures, furniture, and costume; this style and specifically this picture decisively influenced the Revolution's fashions, furniture, and hairstyles.

Provenance
March 19, 1842

Bonnefons de Lavialle (Firm), Paris, [lot 67]

Paul Mathey, Paris

Art Market, [Lausanne]

Exhibitions
David et ses élèves (April 7 to June 9, 1913)
  • Musée du Petit Palais, (Paris), April 7 to June 9, 1913, (Cat. catalogue by H. Lapauze 261)
Words of Blood, Images of Fire (May 12 to August 20, 1989)
  • Pierpont Morgan Library, (New York), May 12 to August 20, 1989, (Cat.)
Jacques-Louis David, 1748 - 1825 (October 26, 1989 to February 12, 1990)
  • Musée du Louvre, (Paris), October 26, 1989 to February 12, 1990, (Cat.)
French Master Drawings (December 3, 1991 to February 16, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), December 3, 1991 to February 16, 1992, (Cat.)
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993, (Cat. 37)
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994, (Cat. 103)
Classicism and Neoclassicism in French Drawing, 1600-1860 (October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 25, 1994 to January 8, 1995, (Cat.)
Figural Compositional Drawings from the 16th to the 19th Century (August 31 to December 8, 1996)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), August 31 to December 8, 1996, (Cat.)
French Drawings from the Age of Greuze (September 10 to December 1, 2002)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 10 to December 1, 2002, (Cat.)
A Revolutionary Age: Drawing in Europe, 1770-1820 (January 18 to May 1, 2005)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 18 to May 1, 2005, (Cat.)
Recent Acquisitions in Context (January 11 to March 13, 2011)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 11 to March 13, 2011, (Cat.)
Rococo to Revolution: Eighteenth-Century French Drawings from Los Angeles Collections (July 1 to September 21, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), July 1 to September 21, 2014, (Cat.)
Related Media
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    Audio: The Lictors Carrying Away the Bodies of the Sons of Brutus