Jacques-Louis David, French, 1748-1825
Title: The Funeral of Patroclus
Date: 1778
Medium: Oil on canvas
94 x 218 cm
Signed: lower left: J.L. David f. Roma 1779
Credit Line: Purchased, 1973 (Shaw Fund)
Object Number: NGI.4060
DescriptionIn 1774 David was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome by the Académie Royale, which allowed him to spend several years studying in Rome. During this time, he executed this panoramic oil sketch. It was exhibited in Rome in 1778 and then sent to Paris, with works by other students of the French Academy in Rome, so that the academicians could judge their progress. The painting depicts scenes from the final book of Homer’s Iliad; the setting is the Greek camp. at the centre of the composition, Achilles (in a red cloak) mourns his friend Patroclus who was slain by the Trojan prince, Hector. Patroclus’s body is laid on a bier before a tall funeral pyre. To the right, is the corpse of Hector, which Achilles desecrated by ordering it to be tied to his chariot and dragged around the walls of Troy. At the left side are the 12 Trojan captives, who Achilles had sacrificed before Patroclus’s body was placed upon the pyre. The subject matter, style and scale of this work illustrate David’s serious ambition to master a Neo-classical style inspired by the antiquities he had studied in Rome.

March 2016
ProvenanceSold by the artist to Abraham Fontanel, Paris, 12 March 1782; Acton Collection, Naples; Serra, Duca del Cardinale, Naples (prior to 1840); Heim Gallery, London; purchased, Heim Gallery, London, 1973
Exhibition HistoryAcademie de France, Rome, Palais Mancini, September 1778

Salon, Paris, 1781

De David á Delacroix, la peinture francaise de 1774 á 1830, Grand Palais, Paris; Detroit Museum of Art, Detroit; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1974-1975

David e Roma, Villa Medici, Rome, 1981-1982

Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Ireland, National Gallery, London, 1985

Jacques-Louis David, Louvre, Paris, 26 October 1989 - 12 February 1990

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

From Rembrandt to Picasso: Homage to Capodimonte, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, 23 October 2007 - 20 January 2008

Le Neoclassicisme, Musée du Louvre, 29 November 2010 - 14 February 2011

Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs, The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 22 March - 6 September 2015; Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016
Label TextDavid painted this large scale work while he was studying at the French Academy in Rome. He imagined scenes from the final book of Homer’s Iliad, set in the Greek camp. A dispute, between rival factions within the Greek forces laying siege to Troy, drove Patroclus to disguise himself as the great hero Achilles in order to lead the army into battle. David depicted the result of Patroclus’s decision: Achilles in a red cloak, mourning his friend. In the background other scenes from the Iliad, including the burning of Trojan captives on a funerary pyre, are shown.

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