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Artist: Ducis, Louis 1 of 1
Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music

Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music, c. 1811

Louis Ducis
French, 1775-1847
Oil on canvas
45-3/8 x 57-5/8 in. (115.2 x 146.3 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
© The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Louis Ducis became a student of Jacques-Louis David in 1795. Ducis is best known for his paintings derived from historical and literary episodes, as in this work exhibited in the 1812 Salon. Interest in the Greek poetess Sappho was high in the early 19th century. A popular tragic opera, named for the heroine, was frequently performed. The well-known playwright Jean-Francois Ducis (1733–1817), Louis Ducis’s uncle, referred to Sappho’s ill-fated love in an anthology of poems. In the visual arts, her story inspired paintings by both Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1801) and David (1809). These various expressions of the same subject likely influenced Ducis’s selection.

This elegant and highly finished rendering of Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music shows the poetess stirring from the deep melancholy that befell her after her lover Phaon’s abandonment. The rhythmic and decorous choreography of her attendants and the arrangement of the drama close to the picture plane recall a stage performance. A bronze statue of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, alludes to the strength of mind needed to withstand the pangs of love.

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Artist: Ducis, Louis 1 of 1