per le lettere
(1748 Paris - 1825 Bruxelles)
The Death of Seneca
1773 Oil on canvas, 123 x 160 cm
Musée du Petit Palais, Paris
This painting was made in (a lost) competition with David's rival, Pierre Peyron.
Peyron's simple, noble and severe composition is known only from an engraving.
David's work was turbulent, theatrical and lacking in gravity, giving no hint of Seneca's dignified and restrained suicide, forced on him by order of the tyrannical Emperor Nero.
Instead, the painting seems more concerned with the emotional farewell between Seneca and his wife Paulina.
(1744 Aix-en-Provence - 1814, Paris)
The Death of Socrates
1787 Oil on canvas, 98 x 133 cm
Statens Museum fur Kunst, Copenhagen
Peyron's The Death of Socrates, commissioned by d'Angiviller for the Crown, was in competition with Jacques-Louis David's work of the same subject.
David's confidence in surpassing his rival, coupled with his aggressive and ambitious nature, make it very possible that he chose to paint his own Socrates when he learned of Peyron's plans.
The force and clarity of David's version was thrown into even sharper relief by the lack of drama and focus in Peyron's work, and both the public and critics declared David's work to be far superior.
David eclipsed his long-time rival once and for all, and from then on Peyron had to be content with a subordinate role in the art world.