Jacques Louis David

This large, bold drawing was part of David’s preparatory work for The Intervention of the Sabine Women. In the legendary origin story of ancient Rome, the city’s founder Romulus and his men abducted women from the neighboring Sabine tribe, forcing them into marriage. When the vengeful Sabines declared war on the Romans, Romulus’s wife and the other Sabine women threw themselves and their infants between the two armies and successfully stopped a war. David conceived of the painting while in prison for his active involvement in the French Revolution and allegiance to Maximilien Robespierre, one of its principal leaders. The subject allowed him to deliver a powerful postrevolutionary message of political and familial reconciliation.

Jacques Louis David
French, 1748–1825
Nude soldiers gesticulating with their weapons, 1796–97
Black chalk, and pen and ink, with touches of white chalk
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Richard and Mary L. Gray; 2019.841
Gray Collection Trust, Art Institute of Chicago
Photography by Art Institute of Chicago Imaging Department