Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), The Death of Pentheus

Jacques-Louis David - The Death of Pentheus
inscribed in grey ink, lower left: nel palazzo giustiniani
134 by 194 mm

David was particularly fond of scenes and themes from Classical Greek antiquity. This is a drawing of an antique relief in the Giustiniani Collection, which David would likely have fresh on one of his trips to Rome.

Pentheus was a king of Thebes. He violently disapproved of the Bacchic cult, but was tempted to watch its rites. He was discovered by his mother, Agave, and his aunts, who in their fury dismembered him. The story is told by Euripides in The Bacchae and his account is quite accurately shown here: ‘Possessed of Bacchus… his left arm she clutched in both her hands, and set against the wretch’s ribs her foot, and tore his shoulder out…’ See P.P. Bober and R. Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture, London 1986, p. 120-21, no. 87 (the story and quotation given in a description of a different sarcophagus).

This entry was posted in Old Master Drawings French.