Composition with Five Figures

Composition with Five Figures / David

David's late drawings express a level of emotion usually repressed in his history paintings. They also demonstrate a shift away from storytelling. These toga-like costumes look vaguely Greek or Roman, but the background is blank and the figures have little emotional connection.

The flatness of the figures shows the influence of ancient Greek vase painting and early Renaissance painting, which artists were rediscovering in the early 1800s. The exaggerated facial expressions are the opposite of the calmness valued by artists in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Drawings like these, though small, were not simply crude sketches. The inscription at center, "David, in thanks to Monsieur Michaud," demonstrates that the artist valued this work enough to present it to a friend.