David, Death of Marat, 1793 David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1800
When the French Republic collapsed and Napoleon came to power in the first years of the nineteenth
century, David’s neoclassical style was put to work for the new emperor. His portrait of Napoleon Crossing
the Alps fits in the long tradition of equestrian portraits with the calm and confident leader contrasted
against the wildness of nature. Other of David’s paintings, like the enormous Coronation of Napoleon,
helped establish the emperor’s legitimacy.
One of David’s many students was Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Ingres continued to use his teacher’s
sharply linear manner of painting, but moved away from the severe morality that David’s paintings typically
show. Ingres’ many portraits are cool and reserved, showing marvelous renditions of fabrics and reflective
surfaces. His Large Odalisque is an intriguing image of a woman from a Turkish harem. Her nude body is
stretched and smoothed so that she seems not to be a human being, but another object of sensuous delight
like the jewels, feathers, and fabrics around her. Although the style of this painting can still be called
neoclassicism, the oriental subject matter was common in the Romantic period, when European expansion
in Asia led to a fascination with the East.
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