Allegory of the French People Offering the Crown and Sceptre to the King
Graphite, 180 x 110 mm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Jacques-Louis David, a French painter, one of the central figures of Neoclassicism and the painter of the French Revolution, received in the spring of 1792 a most unexpected commission: to paint the king in the act of showing the constitution to his heir, the Dauphin. David was certainly no royalist and the fact that he actually started work on the Picture meant that he thought that it could be a positive contribution to the course of the moderate Revolution and also reminds us of the intrigues and complexities of the time.
As well as studies for Louis XVI showing the Constitution to his Son, the Dauphin, David also made drawings for an Allegory of the French People Offering the Crown and Sceptre to the King. The implication of the image was that the king was not ‘vicarious Christi’ anymore, he couldn’t rule by God’s but people’s will and that king’s power could be withdrawn if the he did not respect the constitution. But this work, too, was never completed, this time because of Louis’s refusal to co-operate with the constitution which led to the creation of a Republic.
Later, when the political climate turned against David, he strongly denied that he had ever been involved with such a project and declared, ‘the painter of Brutus was not made to paint kings’.
The plans of many other artists of the time suffered the same fate as David’s projects simply because the course of the Revolution was so rapid and so convoluted that paintings were out of date before they could be completed.
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