The paintings of Jacques Louis David
Jacques Louis David (1748 – 1825) was one of those politically savvy characters who managed to ingratiate himself with whoever was in power at a given moment (a bit like the novel’s Denis Marmaton in this regard). He was given housing at the Louvre by Louis XVI; supported the Revolution and befriended Robespierre; memorialized Napoleon Bonaparte in some of his most famous paintings; and, at the end of his life, was offered the position of Court Painter by the Restoration King Louis XVIII. (This offer he refused.)
This self-portrait, painted in 1794, suggests the passionate and agitated temperament of this brilliant artist. (He painted it while under arrest during the late stages of the French Revolution.) It also reveals the effects of the scar that deformed part of his face and made it difficult for him to speak.
For more on this injury and its effects, see http://jrsm.rsmjournals.com/content/100/7/341.2.full.
Painted in 1799, Les Sabines (in English, The Rape of the Sabine Women or The Abduction of the Sabine Women or, more recently, The Intervention of the Sabine Women) is based on Livy’s story of the legendary Romans’ forcible taking of the Sabine women as wives for themselves. In the novel, it is the subject of a heated argument between Célestine and David, who attends one of her glittering salons in Paris–and who wishes to paint her portrait (“Violation,” Part 3). The painting resides in the Louvre.
Sacre de l’empereur Napoléon Ier et coronnement de l’impératrice Joséphine dans la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
One of his most monumental works, painted between 1805 and 1807, commemorates Napoleon’s audacious crowning of himself and his wife in Notre Dame Cathedral while Pope Pius VII looks on. The paintings below it are Napoleon dans son cabinet de travail (Napoleon in his Study, 1812) and Napoleon croisant les Alpes (Napoleon Crossing the Alps, 1801)