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Born rich, and married even richer, Jacques-Louis David lived a pretty suspenseful life.

First off, his dear old dad was killed in a duel.  He himself got into a sword fight and got sliced in the mouth. Apples and trees, right? He survived, but a tumor grew where the wound healed. It was benign, but got him got him the unfortunate nickname "David of the Tumor" and caused him to suffer from a major speech impediment (a big deal for an opinionated and argumentative Frenchman with a reputation for arrogance). And I mean arrogant. Once, when he failed to win an art prize that he had set his heart on, he tried to starve himself to death.

Fittingly, douche-y David became a close personal friend of one of history's greatest a-holes, Robespierre. After sending over 40,000 people to the guillotine during "the terror", Robespierre got a taste of his own medicine, and had his own head chopped off. David wasn't much better, as a member of the French revolutionary government he signed the death warrants of at least 300 people, including both Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He then made a sketch of Marie Antoinette on her way to the guillotine! His nickname in government was "the ferocious terrorist," which I guess is better than David of the Tumor but not by much.

Amazingly, he merely went to jail after the revolution and further survived to become court painter to Napoleon. This in spite of the fact that he had been one of the people who signed the death warrant of the father of Napoleon's wife Josephine. He was exiled when Napoleon fell, and at the ripe old age of 77, in what is perhaps the most anticlimactic event in history, he got run over by a carriage and died. The French refused to let his body be buried in France, so it lies in Brussels. However, someone trying to maintain an exciting story line carved out his heart and buried it separate from his body at a cemetary in Paris.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Jacques-Louis David

Jacques-Louis David (

French: [ʒaklwi david]; 30 August 1748 – 29 December 1825) was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s, his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward classical austerity, severity, and heightened feeling, which harmonized with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Régime.

David later became an active supporter of the French Revolution and friend of Maximilien Robespierre (1758–1794), and was effectively a dictator of the arts under the French Republic. Imprisoned after Robespierre's fall from power, he aligned himself with yet another political regime upon his release: that of Napoleon, the First Consul of France. At this time he developed his Empire style, notable for its use of warm Venetian colours. After Napoleon's fall from Imperial power and the Bourbon revival, David exiled himself to Brussels, then in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, where he remained until his death. David had many pupils, making him the strongest influence in French art of the early 19th century, especially academic Salon painting.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Jacques-Louis David

Comments (2)

J-C Micklich

Jacques-Louis David was a talented artist, but was also at the forefront of the French Revolution. He is the artist who created the well known image of Napoleon. The painting is of Napoleon yes, but is also a call to action. Most likely there are subtle meanings in his works that are meant to stir something within us; or a call to action.


He left his heart in France, his body in Belgium, and a record of his misdeeds on Sartle...