French Academy Drawing of Belisarius After Gerard
Pencil on paper drawing after a late 18 Century French neo-classical painting after a painting of Belisarius by Baron Francois Pasal Simon Gerard now hanging at the Getty Museum in California. illegibly signed; presented in a 19thC gilt frame. France circa 1850.
While this drawing only shows the heads of Belisarius plus that of a teenage child, the original oil on canvas painting shows the blind Belisarius carrying the teenage child guide on his shoulder. The boy has been bitten by a snake, which remains coiled around his bleeding leg. With his right arm wrapped limply around Belisarius’s neck and his eyes closed, the youth balances precariously between life and death. Belisarius’s eyes are also closed, but guided by his stick he moves forward with determination and purpose.
Belisarius was a popular Byzantine general of the Roman Empire whose promising career was sabotaged by the jealous Emperor Justinian I. In 1767, a novel by Jean-François Marmontel revived interest in Belisarius. In Marmontel’s novel, the emperor has the heroic general blinded, reducing Belisarius to begging. He is eventually rediscovered and aided by former officers and his family. This dramatic tale of patriotism, injustice, and redemption was widely embraced in revolutionary and post-revolutionary France and was a popular subject for artists–including Jacques-Louis David (François Gérard’s teacher), Jean-Antoine Houdon, and Jean-Baptiste Stouf (whose sculpture Belisarius is also in the Museum’s collection).
Dimensions: 33″H (84cm) x 29″W (74cm)
Ref: BL MR1023