Bust of Lucius Junius Brutus (The Capitoline Brutus)
Red chalk and wash on laid paper
Purchased through a gift from the Cremer Foundation in memory of J. Theodor Cremer and a gift from John W. Thompson, Class of 1908, and Dorothy M. Litzinger, by exchange; D.988.16
From around 1600 onward, the study of Roman antiquities became a central tenet of the art academies that were founded throughout Europe. In one instance, as part of an effort to secure original antique works of art and high-quality reproductions of celebrated ancient monuments, a branch of the French Académie was established in Rome in 1666. In exchange for a full scholarship to record the marvels of antiquity, students were required to produce and send to Paris copies and casts of all of the most valuable objects in Rome.
One beneficiary of this system was François-André Vincent, who left for Rome in 1771 and returned to Paris in 1775. He was one of the most innovative French artists of the third quarter of the eighteenth century, becoming a full member of the Académie and exhibiting his work at the Salon until about 1800. His energetic drawing of the famous bust supposedly portraying Lucius Junius Brutus (lived 500 BCE) in the Capitoline Museum was undoubtedly made during his residency in the Eternal City. It depicts one of the city’s most renowned antiquities, a bronze portrait of the man who established republican government in Rome.
Vincent’s drawing is comparable to a similarly sized sheet executed in 1774 in the same manner depicting Cicero (106-43 BCE), a champion of the traditional republican government. The use of vigorous lines of varying density demonstrates the young artist’s control of his medium. However, both sheets also display a technical flair that exceeds the goal of merely reproducing ancient sculptures. They reveal his ability to imbue the drawings with a sense of the individual characteristics of the original sitter.
Bust of Lucius Junius Brutus reflects the recurring interest in utilizing classical objects not only as figurative models but also as a means of expressing specific ideals, suggesting that Vincent may have been a supporter of the republican principles that were popular in France during the years leading up to the French Revolution.
Last Updated: 1/21/10