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Funeral of Patroclus

National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin


Robert Rosenblum speculates on David’s choice of subject for The Funeral of Patroclus :

“About three feet high and seven feet wide (or, more precisely, 94 by 218 cm.), it is in size as it is in narrative and structural complexity, the most ambitious canvas David had  painted, a realization of the multiple goals that had earlier inflamed his imagination…The Homeric subject itself – the funeral of Patroclus – brings to a tumultuous and pageant-ridden climax the new iconographic currents of both French and international painting of the 1760’s and 1770’s; for it combines in panoramic breadth many narrative motifs that earlier painters had treated singly. Inspired by the new zeal for Homer that was already articulated in 1747 by La Font de Saint-Yenne*, who recommended the Iliad and the Odyssey as salutary literary sources that might alter for the better the moral tone of mid-eighteenth-century French painting, artists and academicians alike sought out Homeric passages, particularly in the Iliad, that might stir emotions of epic grandeur and tragedy.”

*La Font de Saint-Yenne was a French art critic whose 1747 Salon review was very influential.

Robert Rosenblum, “David’s Funeral of Patroclus,” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 115, no. 846 (September 1973): 567-8.

Similar Subjects by Other Artists:

Gavin Hamilton, Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus, 1760-63 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh)

About the Artist

Born: Paris, 30 August 1748
Died: Brussels, 29 December 1825
Nationality: French