Sapho, Phaon et l’Amour (1809)

David, Jacques-Louis (1748-1825)

Sapho, Phaon et l’Amour (Sappho, Phaon and Cupid)
Oil on canvas, 225.3 x 262 cm
Hermitage MuseumSaint Petersburg

David is considered the founder and leading light of Neoclassicism, which dominated art in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Sappho and Phaon is a characteristic example of his late work. In the painting we see the Ancient Greek poetess Sappho and her beloved, Phaon. Cupid, who holds out to Sappho a lyre (emblem of music and poetry), symbolizes the idea of love as a source of creative inspiration. On Sappho‘s knees is a scroll with a Greek inscription, the first lines of her First Ode: dedicated to Phaon. The historically convincing depiction of Classical attire, shoes and details in the interior is combined with a sentimental, lyrical interpretation of loving harmony, revealed in the languid voluptuousness of the poses, and even such traditional metaphors for love as the pair of kissing doves and the two trees in the landscape. (SHM)

See also:

• Sappho (7th-6th century BC)