Interpretive Resource

Turning the Pages: Jacques-Louis David, (French, 1748–1825) Sketchbook, 1809/10

Turning the Pages: Jacques-Louis David, (French, 1748–1825) Sketchbook, 1809/10

This digital reconstruction allows you to page through one of Jacques-Louis David’s sketchbooks; his drawings begin eleven page spreads into the partially-blank book. The sketchbook is one of three employed during the genesis of "The Distribution of the Eagle Standards" of 1809/10, one of four huge depictions of the events surrounding Napoleon’s coronation; only two of the planned paintings were executed. David followed classic academic practice in conceiving each figure as a nude study. He sometimes drew clothes, in this case military uniforms, over the nude forms and also superimposed a grid for transfer, noting the proportions of the enlarged figure for the final work. This particular sketchbook underwent changes after David’s death, with sheets removed or added. The numbering systems in the upper right, the paper used, and the ciphers added by one or both of David’s sons are clues to its history. Some added drawings are from other earlier sketchbooks; others appear to be from a group of drawings possibly made during David’s exile in Brussels after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo. Since some of the added drawings were removed and mounted as single sheets after the book entered the Art Institute, this digital project permits the sketchbook to be reintegrated.



drawing, sketchbooks
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