Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David
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In its striking directness, simplicity, and realism, Jacques-Louis David’s portrait of Jean-Pierre Delahaye evokes Roman Republican portraiture, which David had studied and copied as a student in Rome. The subject is painted with great economy: Delahaye’s dark jacket and grey-blue vest set off a crisp white cravat and, with the plain muted background, effectively frame his expressive face. A glimmer of irony seems to brighten his eyes, as David has captured the knowing gaze of an intelligent man who had successfully navigated the political upheavals of the French revolution.

David had extraordinary range as a portraitist. His official, commissioned portraits could convey the might of the powerful, or they could ridicule vanity and false pretense. In a more personal, intimate portrait like that of Jean-Pierre Delahaye, David analyzes the subtleties of human nature. Among his contemporaries, only the Spaniard Francisco Goya could claim such variety.

- J. Patrice Marandel. (2006)