Leonidas at Thermopylae

Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques Louis David

Leonidas at Thermopylae by Jacques Louis David was produced in 1814 and is considered to be one of the famous artworks of Neo Classicism movement. The work can be viewed now at The Louvre, Paris


Medium: Oil Painting 

Subject(s): death, freedom, war


Leonidas at Thermopylae is an oil painting produced in 1814 by French painter Jacques Louis David.

Leonidas at Thermopylae occupied Jacques Louis David for almost fifteen years.

The painting shows Leonidas, the Spartan king prior to the Battle of Thermopylae. The picture, Leonidas at Thermopylae was finished the very same year on which Napoleon transforms a military defeat into a moral victory abdicated for the first time. Leonidas is naked in the center of the picture and preparing for combat. On the left of the picture, a soldier climbs on the wall of rock with the famous phrase “Go, passer-by, to Sparta tell to her law we fell”. Most of the soldiers embrace themselves before meeting their death in combat while others equip themselves with weapons and shields. In the background, we can see the ships of the Persian army coming towards them.

David made many sketches in starting as a trial for his composition and then constantly changing the groups and the poses of the figures. Leonidas was seen in a three-quarter profile In an early drawing around 1799 and the groups around him were more confusing. In the background of the painting, an immense landscape of rocks was closed off. In the final painting, the tree has far fewer branches and leaves on the right because now, we can see a caravan of mules leaving from the battlefield. Louis did this to free up the background.

The drawing was produced for a friend of Louis named as Count Sommariva, an art lover. It was purchased by the Louvre in Paris during the sale of the painting immediately after Louis died in 1826. Louis worked on this painting extremely hard, returning to it many times which is why there is partly a feeling of coarseness.

The work can be viewed at Louvre in Paris.


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