Jacques-Louis David in a “trompe-l’oeil”

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) It is a reference in French neoclassical art. His long life, like his work, are full of dependencies and subject to established norms and regimes. He lived the monarchy, the revolution, the republic, the directory and the Napoleonic empire, and he knew how to make his art compatible with such different moments. Jacques-Louis David is a tagged  pompous and grandiloquent label artist by the circumstances and times he had to live. But inside his life and work beats the excellence of genius above all. In life he was a cultural activist as were Bernini or Leonardo himself, each in his time.

The sewing case of Jacques-Louis David

And this I want to underline when choosing, for one of my trompe-l’oeils, A detail of one of his works. It is a still life that is found in the work “Bruto and the Lictores” (1789, 325×425 cmts, Paris, Louvre Museum). This motif was selected to be copied as a trap that decorates a rustic and antique piece of furniture, a wooden base of a brazier.

Jacques-Louis David sewing case, detail of "Bruto and the Lictores"
Jacques-Louis David sewing case, detail of “Bruto and the Lictores”

It is a sewing case, the only reference to everyday life in a composition with a dramatic scene and not without pomp. This sewing case is an overlapping sample of David’s versatility. According to Jean Leymarie (*), “unexpected still life, worthy of  Zurbarán and Chardin, it is the only accessory that adds an intimate note to the sudden and naked atmosphere of the tragedy “

Extraordinary is that Jacques-Louis David has placed this seemingly simple still life in the center of an area of more than 12 square meters. Possibly without this reason the work would have been excellent among those of Jacques-Louis David’s virtuosity. But this naturalistic detail has given him a touch of genius.

Jacques-Louis David, "Bruto and the Lictores", detail of the center
Jacques-Louis David, “Bruto and the Lictores”, detail of the center

Because, indeed, this small work within the work serves as the center and heart. And the simulated heart, pale and bluish, on the red tablecloth bleeds, implicitly explaining in the scene, the violent death of the children of Brutus.

But even more surprising is the naturalistic detail within this still life. A needle passes through the cloth, in the foreground in “claroscuro” and backlight that makes it the protagonist. Like closing a brooch, which will hold the entire work.

Jacques-Louis David, needle detail in "Bruto and the Lictores"
Jacques-Louis David, needle detail in “Bruto and the Lictores”

The choice of Jacques-Louis David

This still life is a prodigy of resolution and economy of means.

The “trompe l’oeil” of the sewing case was done during the II Natural painting course and copy of the Masters in Borja, Zaragoza, that The Santi’s Workshop taught from April to May 2018 at the Workshop-Study of the Market Square of Borja. The process of realization has given rise to the study and reasoning about the author and his work. This further enriches the experience of painting beyond the achievement of a physical work.

(*) Leymarie, Jean “La pintura francesa” El siglo Skira/ Carrogio, 1995

Reinterpretation of Jacques-Louis David's sewing case for the base hole of an old brazier
Reinterpretation of Jacques-Louis David’s sewing case for the base hole of an old brazier
The sewing case in its brazier base frame
The sewing case in its brazier base frame

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