Jacques-Louis David:
Andromache Mourning Hector

Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

    • Oil on Canvas, 9' 10 1/2" x 6' 8"
    • 1783
    • Musée du Louvre at Paris

In addition to his popularity as a portrait painter, David continued to work in the historical genre which was then considered the height of art. On 22 August 1783, Vien offered this painting of his former pupil to the French Acadmy where it was accepted by a unanimous vote. The subject of this huge painting , again taken from classical mythology, shows Adromache morning over her husband Hector, who has been killed by Achilles. In turn she is being comforted by her son, Priam's grandson.

The work stresses Andromache's nobility and courage in accepting this cruel fate. The colors are bold, but somehow still subordinate to the central message. All other figures have been removed, so that Troy's coming tragedy, now that her city's key hero has been killed, is somehow encapsulated into the moving drama of this one family.

The light leads the viewer to the face of Andromache, who is as exstatic with pain as Bernini's famous Theresa is ecstatic with faith. Her open right hand lies on the dea man's side and she pays little attention to her small son Astyanax, wwhose left hand reaches for her face. So many hands and arms linked to one another in a spiral with so many creases and folds. The little boy is particularly well painted, and is of one of David's pupils, Hennequin.

To a modern critic, the drama of the painting seems overshadowed by the pleasure of following the downstrokes and upstrokes of light that give the picture such a glorious body, but to the contemporary Parisians, it seemed a philosophy lecture on canvas.

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