Grey wash over black chalk
H. 19 cm
L. 17.9 cm
HOMER RECITING HIS VERSES TO THE GREEKS
During the period he spent in the Luxembourg prison from September to December 1794, David conceived the subject of Homère récitant ses vers aux Grecs (Homer reciting his verses to the Greeks) and that of Homère endormi (Homer asleep). A letter of 8 November to the Vicomte de Mainbourg reveals that he attached great importance to this work. "Time hangs heavy on my hands at the moment, because the composition of my Homer subject is now complete. I'm burning to get it onto canvas, because I know in my heart that it will be a significant step forward in art. This idea really fires me – and here I am, locked up. I'm not allowed to return to my studio, which alas, I should never have left. "The artist, now in prison after being all-powerful, probably saw a parallel between his situation and that of the great Greek poet. Today, we know of a large wash drawing in the Louvre (RF 789; 27.2 x 34.5 cm; Pierre Rosenberg and Louis-Antoine Prat, Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825, catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan, Leonardo Arte, 2002, no. 145), where the blind poet is seated, holding his lyre, his right arm stretched out to his audience, while in two sketches (folios 1 and 2, Rosenberg-Prat, nos. 1491 and 1492) of book 5, also in the Louvre (RF 9137), he has exactly the same pose as in the drawing here, with his right hand plucking the strings of his lyre. This drawing was not included in the studio sale that took place on 17 April 1826 and over the following days; it does not carry the initials marked on the drawings by the artist's son before their dispersion, nor can it be recognised in drawings now lost but documented.