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Jacques-Louis David

THE LATE WORK OF JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID (1748–1825) has not been showered with scholarly attention. It has proved difficult for art historians to muster interpretive enthusiasm for the vast ceremonial canvases produced during Napoleon’s reign, such as The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon, 1805–1807. Nor has it been easy to understand the merits of the seemingly vacuous and mannered Neoclassicism of David’s paintings from Belgium, where, following the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, he was exiled from 1816 until his death. Neither the grandes machines of Napoleonic rule nor the overrehearsed canvases of the Belgian period seem comparable to the striking inventiveness of earlier works, like The Oath of the Horatii, 1784, which took Paris by storm when it was shown at the Salon of 1785, and The Death of Marat, 1793, a revolutionary icon so novel in its approach to painting that some scholars

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