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JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID (Paris 1748-1825 Brussels) Mère et Enfant.
Brush and light brown ink and wash over pencil on cream laid paper. 115x187 mm; 4 5/8x7 1/2 inches. Extensively annotated in ink, upper center recto.
David (1748-1825) was born to a prosperous family in Paris. His father died in a duel when David was a child after which David lived with his uncle who worked as an architect. Despite pressure to study architecture himself, he was passionate about drawing and tried to study with Francois Boucher (1703-1770), an important Rococo painter and a distant family member. As tastes were gradually shifting from the florid style of Rococo to a more restrained classical style, Boucher sent the young artist to Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), who embraced the changing tastes.
David then attended the Académie Royale where he applied for the Prix de Rome, the prestigious scholarship to study at the French Academy in Rome, four times before finally being awarded the prize in 1774. He traveled to Italy with Vien, who had been appointed the director of the French Academy in Rome. While in Italy, David studied the work of Renaissance masters such as Caravaggio, Raphael and Carracci. He also absorbed the architecture and sculpture of the ancient city, filling notebooks with studies that he would draw upon throughout his career. The present work is likely a drawing done while the artist was in Rome.
During this time he also met the artist Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), a German painter who embraced the Neoclassical style and introduced David to the writings of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), an important art historian who is cited with directing 18th century tastes away from the Rococo and towards Neoclassicism.
David remained in Rome for five years. Following his return to Paris the Académie Royale admitted him as an associate. Despite the changing political climate during his career, he worked for the monarchy of Louis XVI, the post-revolutionary government and the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. He gained acclaim as one of the foremost French Neoclassical artists of his day, producing compositions that often combined Enlightenment philosophy with his linear style creating a sense of moral clarity and balance amidst the turbulent times of his artistic career.