The high quality of this painting was of such renown that David’s students requested permission to copy it.
Known as a tête d'expression or "expressive head," this painting represents an essential part of the academic training of history painters who specialized in religious, mythological, or historical subjects. In 1760, such exercises became standard at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris, then known as Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture. Focusing on the relationship between morality and beauty, the goal of a history painter is not only to create a pleasing image, but also to represent the emotions of the soul.
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