Lot 58
  • 58

Jacques-Louis David

600,000 - 800,000 GBP
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  • Jacques-Louis David
  • alexander, apelles and campaspe
  • Pen and black ink, grey and light beige wash heightened with white over black chalk;
    signed and dated in pen and black ink on the pedestal of the chair of Apelles: L. David. 1813
    A dedicatory letter in pen and ink attached to the backing of the frame: Alexandre, Apelles et Campaspe./Par Louis David/1812. [sic] /J'ai l'honneur d'offrir à ma digne/Elève, Mademoiselle Léonie Dusseuil,/ce dessin d'un grand peintre, dont les/oeuvres sont un modèle de style, de goût/et de caractère./En appréciant/ces rares mérites,/Mademoiselle Léonie Saura y joindra/la grace, l'esquise delicatesse de l' esprit /et les nobles élans de l'âme, qui/distinguent son remarquable talent ./Aug.te Couder/élève de L. David./1er avril 1868.


Given by David to Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros (1771-1835) in February 1820,
his sale, Paris, 23 November 1835, lot 172, to the painter, Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse (1784-1844),
his sale, Paris, 19 March 1845, lot 29, to Charles-Auguste Couder (1790-1873);
presented by him to his pupil Léonie Dusseuil (1843-1923) on 1 April 1868;
Private Collection, France


Brussels, Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts, David et son temps, 1925-6, possibly no. 28


A. Th[omé de Gamond], Vie de David, Paris 1826, p. 167;
Ch. Blanc, Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles, École  française, vol. ll, 1865, p.16;
J.L.J. David, Le peintre Louis David, 1748-1825. I. Souvenirs et documents inédits, 1880, pp. 569, 574, 662;
M. Florisoone, David. Exposition en l'honneur du deuxième  centenaire de sa naissance, exhib. cat., Paris, Orangerie des Tuileries, and Versailles, Musée du château,1948, under no. M.O.66 (1);
L. Hautecoeur, Louis David, Paris 1954, p. 245;
S.A. Nash, The Drawings of Jacques-Louis David: selected problems, PhD thesis, Stanford University, 1973, pp. 155-56, and p. 236, note 388;
D. and G. Wildenstein, Documents complémentaires au catalogue  de l'oeuvre de Louis David, Paris 1973, no. 1869;
A. Brookner, Jacques-Louis David, London 1980, p. 210;
A. Schnapper, Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825, exhib. cat., Paris, Musée du Louvre, and Versailles, Musée du château,1989-90, pp. 626-27;
P. Spencer-Longhurst, 'Apelles painting Campaspe' by Jacques-Louis David: art, politics, and honour', in Apollo, CXXXV, no. 361, March 1992, pp. 157, 162, note 3;
P. Rosenberg and L.-A. Prat, Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825, Catalogue raisonné des dessins, Milan 2002, vol. I,  pp. 302-3, no. 319bis. reproduced;  p. 712, under no. 1106;  and vol. II, p. 1016, under no. 1566;  p. 1218, under M6;
V. Bajou and S. Lemeux-Fraitot, Inventaires après décès de Gros et de Girodet, Paris 2002, p. 57, no. 325; p.101, no. 325;
P. Bordes, Review of Rosenberg and Prat, in Revue de l'Art, no. 143, 2004/1, p. 123; reproduced, p. 124, fig. 1;
P. Bordes, Jacques-Louis David, Empire to Exile, exhib. cat., Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum and Williamstown, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2005, under cat. no. 31, pp.225-228, illus. p.227, fig. 79,



It appears to be laid down on the original light blue passepartout which has bands of black and gold. Overall the drawing appears to be in very good condition, the washes and white heightening very fresh. It is sold in a modern frame. The backing of the frame is original to the drawing.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

This very important drawing, long known only through the literature on David, reappeared in 2001.  It was a gift from David to Baron Gros and is recorded in an exchange of letters between the two artists which was transcribed by Delahaye.  On 22 February 1820, David wrote: 'Ma femme me fait part du plaisir que ferait à mon Cher Mr Gros la vue du dessin de moi représentant Alexandre faisant peindre par appel [sic] sa maitresse Campaspe, je saisis cette occasion pour le prier de l'accepter de ma part'.  Baron Gros, in a reply of 4 August 1820, wrote in appreciation of the gift, saying that it constituted: 'la gemma de mon petit salon'.1

Bordes describes this elaborate and highly-finished drawing as 'among the artist's most ambitious graphic works'.2   It can be seen as an independent work, although somewhat later David began a painting of the same subject (fig. 1, Lille Musée des Beaux-Arts).  The studio of Apelles is full of antique objects, which Rosenberg and Prat have shown to be based on the copies drawn by David on his Italian travels.  For instance, the subject of the canvas which Apelles is painting is The Departure of Orestes and Iphigenia from Tauris, from a sketch David had made in 1780 after a relief on an antique sarcophagus in the Libreria Vecchia, Venice.  Behind Campaspe is the famous bust of Achilles from the Giustiniani collection, now in the Torlonia museum (believed at the time to represent Alexander), and the Apollo Belvedere, which David copied circa 1805 when it was in Paris.  The marble relief just behind the bust of Achilles, representing a soldier riding a horse, seems to be another classical quotation.  The chairs and the lyre also have prototypes in David's sketchbooks.3  Bordes believes that this emphasis on antiquity is a reflection of David's intellectual concerns at the period.

Although David may have begun the painting of this subject in Paris as early as 1813, at the time of his death in Brussels it was listed as an unfinished work.  The setting is vastly simplified and there are significant differences between the two compositions, most notably that the painting on which Apelles is working is now, more logically, the portrait of Campaspe, with Alexander.  Again, Bordes sees the changes as a reflection of the artist's aims at a slightly later period in his life.

This drawing can be grouped with several others of classical subjects dated 1812 and 1813.4 All share the same media and are fully developed compositions, with authentic antique details deriving from David's studies.  However, Alexander, Apelles and Campaspe is the most elaborate and impressive of them all, perhaps because the subject of an artist in his studio had a special resonance for David.  It is, as Rosenberg and Prat described it, 'magnifique', an elegant summation of the artist's fascination with antiquity, and arguably the most important drawing by David that remains in private hands.

1. Rosenberg and Prat, loc. cit.
2. Bordes, op. cit., 2005, p.225
3. Rosenberg and Prat, loc. cit.
4. Rosenberg and Prat, op. cit., nos. 305, 306, 316, 319