0023 Last Words: David's Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Graces (1824)

Subjectivity, Death, and Postrevolutionary Late Style

  • Satish Padiyar (Author)
    The Courtauld Institute of Art, London

    Satish Padiyar trained as an art historian at University College London, where he gained his PhD (1999), working with Helen Weston and Adrian Rifkin. He taught at the University of Leeds and at University College London, and was the recipient of a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship, before joining The Courtauld as Visiting Lecturer in 2005. He worked on The Triumph of Eros. Art and Seduction in 18th Century France, at the Hermitage Rooms, London, in 2006, as chief curator. He was appointed Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Art in 2008.

    More information: www.courtauld.ac.uk/people/padiyar-satish.shtml

Identifiers (Article)


Completed as he was approaching death in 1825, Jacques-Louis David's final refractory history painting is an intricate summation of a life in politics and painting. The article attempts to re-interpret the canvas in relation to the dual problem of 'late style' and the condition of exile. I argue that this history painting invokes the metaphor of non-sex for the condition of exile; and as a late gesture stages an anomalous return to a pre-lapsarian eighteenth century. The painting, I conclude, reveals less the transcendent subjectivity of an artist approaching biological death, than the critical disarming of a once-radical neoclassical aesthetic itself, in its tragic late phase.


Late style, Postrevolutionary, Neoclassical, Death, History painting, Exile, French Revolution, Beau ideal, Jacques Louis David, Mars désarmé par Vénus et les Grâces