Known as the last portrait made by the French painter Jacques-Louis David, this picture of the lawyer Jean-Pierre Delahaye was a tribute to the man who would serve as a close business partner to the artist while he was exiled in Brussels after the fall of the Napoleonic empire. A proxy for David in Paris, Delahaye managed the sales of the master's now-iconic paintings, such as The Intervention of the Sabine Women and Leonidas at Thermopylae, to the newly reinstallated King Louis XVIII. The two paintings now hang at the Louvre.
The gravitas of the the sitter in this painting echoes the treatment of subjects Roman Republican portraiture. Having studied in Rome in the 1770s, when artists were looking back to antiquity, David undoubtedly recalled his experience there to execute this portrait of Delahaye. The minimal use of color—shades of blacks, browns, whites, and beiges—encourage the focus on the sitter's warm, trustworthy expression.
This year marks LACMA's 50th anniversary. We're celebrating all that we've done while looking forward to what's in store for us in the next 50. Check back every week on Unframed to find a highlight of an artwork from LACMA's collection, which features over 120,000 objects that span time, the globe, and all cultures. This is 19/50 of the series.