La Douleur

plaster sculpted bust of man, with brow furrowed and head turned (front view)

La Douleur (Pain), 1811
54 x 32 x 26 cm
Dated front, lower right
Collection Roberta J. M. Olson and Alexander B. V. Johnson

Cat. 12

This extraordinary bust won the 1811 tête d’expression (expressive head) competition at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Its originality lies in the artist’s conjunction of classical sculptural types with his close study of a posed, fashionably sidewhiskered model. La Douleur marks the beginning of David’s lifelong exploration of the relationship between ideal classical beauty and the fleshy reality of the living body. One of two casts made during his lifetime, the work retains the raised seams from its original molds. For modern viewers, these are a prized indicator of a plaster’s authenticity.

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