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Circle of Jacques-Louis David, Calliope Mourning Homer (1812)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Calliope Mourning Homer (1812) by Circle of Jacques-Louis David.

About the Work

Title : Calliope Mourning Homer 
Artist : Circle of Jacques-Louis David
Year : 1812
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 84.5 x 100.7 cm (33 1/4 x 39 5/8 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

According to the digital catalogue of the Harvard Art Museums :

“Interest in the legend of Homer’s life and works reached an apogee during the French Revolution and continued to be a popular subject for neoclassical artists throughout the nineteenth century. This composition is inspired by Greek imagery honoring heroes, and the bas-relief in the background reproduces a scene from a section of the Parthenon frieze that entered the Musée du Louvre’s collection in 1798.” 

David was granted membership to the French Academy following the completion of this work. Certain characteristics of salon style painting may be seen in this work. Foremost, the subject matter of the painting is popular and drawn from history. Further, the anatomy and proportions match the high standards of the French academy, as does the lighting and use of negative space. The artist effectively displays his skilled brushwork through the drapes of the clothing worn.

Other Details

Circle of Jacques-Louis David’s Calliope Mourning Homer 1812 is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2220, European and American Art, 17th–19th century. It is part of the museum’s collection of the Rococo and Neoclassicism in the Eighteenth Century.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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