The Primitives of David's Workshop

The Primitives of David's Workshop

  • Maurice Quay.

    RIESENER Henri-François (1767 - 1828)

  • The school of Apelles.

    BROC Jean (1771 - 1850)

  • Allegory on the State of France before the Return from Egypt.

    FRANQUE Jean-Pierre (1774 - 1860)

  • Romulus, conqueror of Acron, brings the opium remains to the temple of Jupiter.

    INGRES Jean-Auguste Dominique (1780 - 1867)

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

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Title: The school of Apelles.

Author : BROC Jean (1771 - 1850)

Creation date : 1800

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 375 - Width 480

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 06-529648 / RF27

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

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Title: Allegory on the State of France before the Return from Egypt.

Author : FRANQUE Jean-Pierre (1774 - 1860)

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 261 - Width 326

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

Picture reference: 92-002257 / INV4560

Allegory on the State of France before the Return from Egypt.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - All rights reserved

To close

Title: Romulus, conqueror of Acron, carries the opium remains to the temple of Jupiter.

Author : INGRES Jean-Auguste Dominique (1780 - 1867)

Creation date : 1812

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 265 - Width 530

Technique and other indications: Oil on canvas.

Storage place: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. G. Ojeda

Picture reference: 94-060191 / DL1969-2

Romulus, conqueror of Acron, carries the opium remains to the temple of Jupiter.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - R. Ojeda

Publication date: December 2008

Historical context

It is in a spirit eager for novelty that within David's studio, around 1798, the Sect of Meditators or Primitives or Beards was created, names that these young artists owe to the fact that they defy their time by not not shaving and dressing in an antique way to the extreme. David is the artist of the Revolution: it is he who paints the new martyrs such as Marat or Bara. Taking example from their master and The Rape of the Sabine Women (1799, Musée du Louvre), Maurice Quay, Hilaire Périé and his comrades intend to subject art to a revolutionary type scheme and apply primitive ideas to their lives, until they develop a real modus vivendi.

Image Analysis

Maurice Quay, painted by Riesener, is presented bearded, disheveled hair, shirt undone, no tie and eyes in the dark. This portrait, which must date from before 1802, when Quay died of consumption, shows a feverishness and a genius bordering on madness. Charismatic and passionate by nature, Quay charms his fellow students. According to Étienne Delécluze: "Moriès and Ducis were already expressing their appreciation for him, so he soon became completely master of the minds of Pierre, Joseph [the Franque brothers], Broc and Perrié [sic] and a few others who formed the nucleus of the sect. "Passionate about reading Homer, the Bible and Ossian, he advocates a return to primitive origins, which is also reflected in a desire to draw on the precepts of the Greek and Etruscan arts.

Jean Broc's painting, The School of Apelles, presented at the Salon of 1800, clearly demonstrates the difference between the sect and the rest of the works on display. Like a pictorial manifesto, it is part of an artistic lineage that wants to go beyond David's teaching with a touch close to tempera and fresco. Misunderstood during its exhibition, the painting can be seen first of all as a tribute to Apelles and therefore to ancient painting, but also as a tribute to Raphael and to The School of Athens. But above all, he is a fantasized image of the sect itself through the young men who palaver on art in a spirit of emulation.

In 1810, as the sect dissolved upon the death of Maurice Quay in 1802, Jean-Pierre Franque and his twin brother Joseph-Boniface executed The Allegory of France before the Return from Egypt in order to honor the Emperor. This unusual painting presents Napoleon as a dreamer discovering the state of France plagued by the demons of civil and foreign wars, in an Ossianic and phantasmagorical atmosphere. Executed long after the sect's dissolution, its craftsmanship - primitive touch and Ossian influence - shows the desire for continuity on the part of these two ancient Primitives. Other artists, who were not part of this small group, took an interest in these new thinkers and took up some of their codes. In 1812, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, a workshop comrade of the Primitives in his youth, executed Romulus, conqueror of Acron, carries the opium spoils to the temple of Jupiter, a canvas which owes a lot to the ideas of the Primitives by its manner close to the fresco, the freshness of its colors and its rendering almost without perspective. Twelve years after the first painting of the sect, Ingres takes over this style by adapting it in his own way.

Interpretation

The Primitives left a lasting mark on the history of art, without any tribute being paid to them. These artists, who had based their artistic ideas on the texts of Ossian, Homer and the Bible, continue to guide their lives and their art according to the principle of utopia. Around 1800, the artists cohabit on the hill of Chaillot, in a community spirit, try to live in harmony with nature and are vegetarians. The Revolution celebrated its heroes, highlighting their virtues: the Primitives echoed this notion through their morality and their desire to create a peaceful and respectful world. Denigrated during their lifetime by the authority in place, they nevertheless interested their contemporaries and imposed an alternative style, based on a restricted perspective, a technique close to tempera or fresco and a look turned towards the Primitives of the Middle Ages and Etruscan art. François Gérard and Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres are two of the greatest figures inspired by the "primitive" vision of this sect. With the absolute goal of perfection of art, these young people wanted to go beyond the teaching of David in order to create a new aesthetic and a new thought.

  • neoclassicism
  • portrait
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • Primitives
  • frescoes

Bibliography

Étienne DELÉCLUZE, Louis David, his school and his time, 1855, republished Paris, Macula, 1983.Saskia HANSELAAR, The Aesthetics of Shadows: Ossian and a generation of French artists on the eve of Romanticism (1793-1833), doctoral thesis in art history at the University of Paris X-Nanterre, November 2008 George LEVITINE, The Dawn of Bohemianism: The Barbu Rebellion and Primitivism in Neoclassical France, University Park, London and Pennsylvania, 1978.

To cite this article

Saskia HANSELAAR, "The Primitives of David's Workshop"


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