annual riha lecture

Ending David: Painting towards Death in Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Graces (1824)

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

17.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre

Mars and Venus sitting on a couch, Cupid on bent knee in front on floor, the 3 graces behind with Mars' shield, helmet and bow
Jacques-Louis David, Mars Disarmed by Venus and the Three Graces, 1824, Oil on canvas, 308 x 262 cm, Royal Museum of Fine Art of Belgium, Brussels. (inv. 3261) © Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. [dig. photo: J. Geleyns /]

Speaker(s): Dr Satish Padiyar (Lecturer in 19th Century Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission

Organised by: Professor Caroline Arscott

Jacques-Louis David’s Mars Disarmed is a particularly rich staging of the dilemma of an ending, but has only come to be recognized as such through the modern cultural notion of ‘late style’.  In recent years there has been renewed critical engagement with the problem of ‘late style’, and questions about endings continue to be raised in scholarly and curatorial art history work. This lecture reflects upon one late work – indeed the last public work – by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), in which he took up the subject of love in order to paint towards death. What does a ‘late’ work look like? What is the effect of the consciousness of coming to an end on a person’s final acts?  Would painting under the sign of ‘late’ induce a queer sense of time, out of time and place, and would a ‘late’ form of writing and presenting art history move us to pull apart previous notions of period and artistic identity?

Satish Padiyar is Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art. He has published widely on post revolutionary early-nineteenth-century French art, and is now writing a book on ‘The Senses of Freedom: Agency from Fragonard to Twombly’.

This is the second annual lecture associated with the RIHA Journal, the Journal of the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, launched in 2010. It represents an ambitious effort to coordinate and support the multiple approaches to art historical research in RIHA’s many member countries through the production of a freely accessible online journal. The Journal makes use of local editors from all the member institutes, including The Courtauld, to peer review and publish outstanding articles in this field. Managed by Dr Regina Wenninger in the Zentralinstituts für Kunstgeschichte in Munich, the Journal is supported by the German government in the form of specially adapted ‘Plone’ software for multi-site editing. For further information see

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