The 17th century in France saw the creation of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, an institution that was to dominate artistic production for nearly 200 years. Founded in 1648 during the reign of Louis XIV and modeled on the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, the Royal Academy was intended to professionalize artists working for the French court. Some 35 years later, the organization reached its full glory under the leadership of the history painter
The death of Louis XIV in 1715 marked the debut of a seven-year period of social license during which France was governed by the hedonistic Philippe d’Orléans, acting as regent for the young Louis XV. This shift set the tone for artistic practice throughout the 18th century, as collecting tastes turned toward what is now known as the rococo manner, characterized by the gallant mythological scenes of
Two important artistic developments arose in the course of the 18th century. First, Enlightenment philosophy, with its empirical bent, encouraged a corresponding attention to realism in art, as shown in the work of
The sobriety of neoclassical art is typically considered in opposition to the exuberance of the rococo, but artists such as
David’s politically charged works reflected increasing public dissatisfaction with the French monarchy and a desire for the introduction of republican principles. An ardent supporter of the Revolution, David was instrumental in dismantling ancien régime systems, including the Royal Academy, which was dissolved by the National Convention on August 8, 1793, in a move that definitively changed future artistic production in France.