How Much Did David Charge for His Paintings?
David was one of the highest-paid artists of his time. He received 100,000 francs—a colossal sum—for his 20 x 30 foot painting of Napoleon's coronation. He billed Napoleon the same amount for another painting of the same size, The Distribution of the Eagles, but succeeded in obtaining only 65,000 francs.
David also received estimable sums for other official paintings, including 10,000 francs for a portrait of Pope Pius VII and 12,000 francs for two copies. After receiving 24,000 francs from the king of Spain for the first version of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard, he asked the same for each of three copies made for Napoleon. Napoleon's top arts official, Vivant Denon, found this "exorbitant" and reduced the payment to 15,000 francs each.
Financially savvy, David was able to buy a house in the countryside from the profits of his one-man show of The Intervention of the Sabine Women, for which he charged 1.80 francs per head. In 1819, the royal government that had exiled him paid 100,000 francs for this painting and Léonidas at Thermopylae.
David made many of his portraits as gifts for friends or family. Others paid cash. Cooper Penrose presented David with 200 hefty gold coins for his 1802 portrait. David charged a more modest sum for his portraits in Brussels, including 4,000 francs for his portrait of Zénaïde and Charlotte Bonaparte and 6,000 for his portrait of Juliette de Villeneuve. In 1818 he accepted to paint Madame de Staël for 40,000 francs, but the commission went to a former student who was a better bargain.