The influence of Caravaggio on Jacques-Louis David’s development of French neoclassical painting
Martin, Erin Claire
MetadataShow full item record
This study examines the purported influence of the art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio on Jacques-Louis David’s role in the development of French Neoclassical painting. Scholars of eighteenth-century French art have suggested a correlation between each artist’s heightened naturalism, simplified compositions and careful modeling of forms. David’s artistic training, during a period of reform in the French Academy, included an extended period of study in Italy with an emphasis on antiquity as well as Renaissance and Baroque Masters. Although Caravaggio held a precarious place among the artistic models advocated by the French Academy, there is evidence that many French students, including David, observed and copied his works in Rome. This study establishes a context for understanding the impact of Caravaggio in eighteenth-century French theory, academic practice, and public art consumption through a survey of correspondence from within the French Academy, theoretical texts relevant to academic practice, and Grand Tour literature. By examining the changing nature of the caravaggesque from David’s work as a pensionnaire through his history paintings of the 1780s, this paper demonstrates the extent to which David may have incorporated qualities of Caravaggio’s art into his development of Neoclassicism in French painting.