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Famous Neoclassical Art
Dawit Abeza
Famous Neoclassical Art

Famous Neoclassical Art

What is neoclassical art?

A cultural trend that is widely manifested in all artistic forms, giving art a different meaning and value compared to previous years characterized by the Baroque and Rococo '. To define Neoclassicism it is enough to remember 3 elements: classical Greco-Roman art, the balance of compositions, and proportion.

The main theorist of Neoclassicism was Johann Joachim Winckelmann, who was the promoter of the rebirth of ideal beauty and the imitation of classical antiquity. Winckelmann's theory is part of an exciting historical period as regards artistic discoveries: In 1783 the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii were discovered. Thus, the idea spread that Greek and Roman artistic perfection was the only form to be imitated to restore an image of beauty and harmony.

What are the characteristics of neoclassical art?

It was believed that classical art was the apex, the highest and most complete level of taste. The neoclassicism had to go in search of formal balance and perfection that excluded any feeling and emotional involvement, the art did not have to communicate emotions, but it had to be the symbol of perfection. Neoclassical art was born suddenly as a theoretical operation, it did not appear as a natural evolution.

It is not difficult to recognize a neoclassical work of art, because Neoclassicism is a movement characterized by distinctive features, which quickly spread throughout Europe and also reached the New World.

Neoclassicism was a style that pervaded the taste of an era and therefore involved not only sculpture and painting but also architecture, literature, and music. Neoclassicism also had a very surprising influence on ceramics, furniture, and fashion.

The tragedies of Vittorio Alfieri, the translations of Homer's Iliad by Vincenzo Monti, the novels of Ugo Foscolo, and the poems of Ippolito Pindemonte contributed to spreading the ideas and feelings of society at a time of great political and social changes. In fact, that was the moment when modern Western democracies were born.

What does neoclassical mean?

The term neoclassical refers to neoclassicism; an art created to enhance the cult of perfection, taking up sculptures from the classical period of ancient Rome and Greece, bringing them back as real beauties to be inspired by for the creation of new works of art, both sculptural, painting and artistic representation.

When did neoclassical art begin?

It began in the mid-eighteenth century and ended with the end of the Napoleonic Empire in 1815. Neoclassicism arises from the concepts of men of thought in Germany. Immediately after the first demonstrations, it expanded, under the growing pressure of archaeological excavations in Italy, England, and France, spreading rapidly like wildfire throughout the European continent.

Top 10 Neoclassical Masterpiece Paintings 

  1. The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David
  2. The Valpinçon bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  3. The intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David
  4. Great Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  5. Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David
  6. Napoleon I on his imperial throne by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
  7. Dante and Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  8. The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
  9. Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris by Angelica Kauffman
  10. The source by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David

The work celebrates Marat, one of the main protagonists of the French Revolution murdered by a young Girondin. Marat is immersed in a tub, his head is tilted to the left, and resting on a surface, he wears a very tight white turban. His expression is not suffering, rather he seems to be in a state of unconsciousness, the eyebrows, still wrinkled, seem to signal a glimmer of life, even the corners of his mouth are raised.

His right arm is dropped to the floor and his hand holds a pen. Her left arm rests on a plank covered with green cloth and her hand holds a letter on which we read:

«Du 13 Juillet 1793 / Marie Anne Charlotte / Corday au citoyen / Marat. / The suffit que je sois / Bien malheureuse / pour avoir Droit / à votre bienveillance "(" July 13, 1793. Marie Anne Charlotte Corday to citizen Marat. It is enough that I am so unhappy to be entitled to your benevolence ").

The papers under his arm are stained with blood. In the foreground, there is a wooden base on which an inkwell, a dip pen, and other sheets of paper are placed. On the ground a knife is abandoned, the weapon of the probable crime. In fact, on the side, there is a deep wound. The water in the tub is stained with blood. Even the sheets that come out have red spots. The background is devoid of furniture, dark and illuminated by a dim light coming from the right.

Neoclassicism Vs Romanticism

Jacques-Louis David Paintings


The Valpinçon bather by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


The work was conceived and executed by the painter during his stay in Rome at the French Academy. For this reason in the lower left, we read: “Ingres. Rome 1808 ". Here the influences on the French artist of the painters of the Italian Renaissance are evident, especially Raphael, from whom he adopted the elegant and harmonious lines that characterize the female nude in this work.

The woman is completely naked with her face hidden and sits with her back to the edge of a bed. She has a kind of turban on her head that gathers her dark hair. The white sheet that falls towards the ground ends with a precious embroidered border and a fringe. Between the curtain on the left and the woman's legs, we see a tub in which a small jet is pouring water. The contour line of the body is perfect and creates harmonious curves defining an absolute, classic beauty.


The intervention of the Sabine Women by Jacques-Louis David

On the right in the foreground, there is Romulus, who is fighting to stop the attackers, on the ground, there are many frightened children, who are being protected by women or trying to save themselves. In the center with a green dress, an elderly woman can be seen, who is undressing to show her breast to Romulus, trying to dissuade him from this senseless conflict.

The woman tries to appeal to her maternal value, trying to convince Romulus that she was the one who raised him. Love is the core of the work: it was precisely this that allowed the growth of the Roman people and the Sabines, after having created families and new ties with the people of Romulus, no longer want to return to the Sabines. The characters in the scene are very many, but in the end, everything happens in the foreground, tracing very closely the works created by Mantegna.


Great Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


A young and charming odalisque lies on a mattress covered with fine sheets, under her body you can see an animal fur and her bust rests on soft cushions and precious fabrics. A heavily decorated curtain falls from the canopy and the body is turned to the back and completely stretched out. Her nudity, however, is totally chaste: the most intimate parts are covered from view and only the lower part of a breast can be seen.

The young woman's face is turned towards the observer, much of her hair is hidden by a precious turban knotted on her head. Another important jewel can be glimpsed between the sheets while in her hands she holds a fan of peacock feathers. At the feet of the young woman is a long pipe and an elaborate incense burner placed on a metal tray.


Portrait of Madame Récamier by Jacques-Louis David

In the center of a large room, Madame Récamier rests on an elegant wooden triclinium. On the left, there is a high iron brazier which is the only piece of furniture in the whole scene and he wears a large tunic that reaches almost to his feet. The dress, soft and with a light fabric, falls to the ground; his right arm is softly and scenically placed over his legs with his hand touching his knee. Her forehead is surrounded by a black ribbon, while the white dress is tied under the breast. Its appearance thus resumes the clothing in vogue at the time that recalls the Roman fashion that emerged from the excavations of Pompeii.


Napoleon I on his imperial throne by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The emperor of the French is shown as a deity, clothing that demonstrates his authority, with white ermine fur and a laurel wreath on his head.The emperor of the French is depicted with the scepter of Charles V, the sword and the "hand of justice", the latter considered to have belonged to Charlemagne, all currently kept in the Louvre.

The signs of the zodiac are depicted in the small circles that run along the edges of the carpet, but within the first, on the throne, there is represented, as a tribute to Raphael, the "Madonna Della Seggiola", very similar to that contained in the painting "Monsieur Riviere".


Dante and Virgil by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

The protagonists of the painting are none other than the protagonists of Dante Alighieri's work "The Divine Comedy", that is Dante himself and his companion Virgil, who was the guide of the author inside the infernal kingdom and that of Purgatory, to then give way to Beatrice for the kingdom of Paradise, Virgil could not access Paradise because he had not been baptized. The scene proposed by William Bouguereau within the painting is the one that Dante himself narrates in both the twenty-ninth and the thirtieth canto of Hell. In the center there are two damned, where one is furiously beating the other while biting him in the neck; on the left, in the background, Dante and Virgil watch with terror and indignation, while even more behind a demonic figure looks at them.

The two damned fightings are Gianni Schicchi with red hair and who is biting his opponent, and Capocchio. The first, he had stolen Capocchio's identity in order to take possession of his inheritance, and because of this he is relegated to this circle of the Underworld; in the same way, the victim of deception is also in the circle of counterfeiters since he was a heretic and a forger of metals.


The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David

The work documents the Coronation of Napoleon and his wife Giuseppina Beauharnais. Napoleon is depicted in the center of the painting at the moment of his coronation in front of eighty recognizable characters. The Emperor stands facing those present and raises the golden crown. The leader wears a white dress adorned with gold decorations. Additionally, he wears a large cloak that falls forward and over his back.

A crown of gold leaves surrounds Napoleon's head. Two steps below, his wife is kneeling on a pillow similar to that of the Emperor. Giuseppina Beauharnais has her head bowed and her hands joined and she wears the crown. Napoleon himself crowned his wife and himself. Two ladies lift the edge of the precious red cloak similar to the imperial one. Pope Pius VII is seated behind Napoleon and next to him is Cardinal Giovanni Battista Caprara, archbishop of Milan.


Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris by Angelica Kauffman

The scene in the painting is taken from the ancient Greek story of the Trojan War. The Trojan War was started because a man named Paris abducted Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world because he was promised by the Greek God Aphrodite that he would be granted the most beautiful woman in the world if he chose her.

The painting, Venus Induces Helen to Fall in Love with Paris, uses the vanishing point technique and can be seen by looking at some of the items in the work. Paris and Helen are both looking at the middle of the painting, also the body of the cupid is pointing towards the middle of the art piece. Angelica Kauffman's painting is a skillful example of a Neo-Classical art piece because it is based on an Ancient Greek story, as well as incorporating the vanishing point technique.

Angelica Kauffmann Paintings


The source by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The work was begun in Florence around 1820, but not completed before 1856 in Paris. When Ingres first showed it he was 76 years old, he had become very famous and held the position of president of the École des beaux-arts. The pose of the female nude represented in this painting can be compared to that of another painting by the same author, the Venus Anadiomene of 1848, and is a reinterpretation of the "Venus modesty" as the hand is held in front of the pubis with the intent to cover it from sight. also represented in the Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. The model was the young daughter of Ingres' concierge.


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