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  • Death of Cato of Utica

    Artist:
    Guillon-Lethière, Guillaume. 1760-1832
    Technique:
    oil
    Dimensions:
    149,5x226 cm

Guillon-Lethière, Guillaume. 1760-1832

Death of Cato of Utica

France, 1795

In Plutarch's Parallel Lives, we read of Marcus Porcius Cato of Utica (95-46 BC), Roman tribune and staunch opponent of the autocracy of Julius Caesar who, after the defeat of the republicans and establishment of the dictatorship of Julius Caesar, committed suicide by falling on his sword. At the left by the head of the bed is the empty scabbard, and on the table to the right a lamp and scroll with an inscription in Greek, indicating that before his death Cato, as is stated in the Parallel Lives, was reading Plato's dialogue On the Immortality of the Soul. Lethiere's painting is a typical example of the painting of Neoclassicism, which was popular in the decade after the French Revolution of 1789. The subject was deliberately selected with a didactic purpose, to be an example of bravery and stoicism. This death-bed is treated with all the idealization inherent in the Neoclassical style, without any naturalistic details. The composition recalls a bas-relief, with the subject stretched along the foreground of the painting, while the modelling of forms and the hero's pose are borrowed from the Ancient Roman sculpture of The Dying Gaul, evidence of the deliberate imitation of Antique art. Cato?s head resembles the features of Brutus the Elder, first consul of the Roman Republic, depicted in the famous sculptural bust Brutus (early 3rd century BC, Capitoline Museums, Rome).

Title:

Death of Cato of Utica

Place:

Date:

Material:

Technique:

oil

Dimensions:

149,5x226 cm

Acquisition date:

Entered the Hermitage in 1899; sent as a gift from Paris by K.A. and E.P. Vlasovs

Inventory Number:

ГЭ-1302

Category:

Collection:

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