DAVID, Jacques-Louis
(b. 1748, Paris, d. 1825, Bruxelles)

The Death of Seneca

1773
Oil on canvas, 123 x 160 cm
Musée du Petit Palais, Paris

This painting was made in (a lost) competition with David's rival, Pierre Peyron. Peyron's simple, noble and severe composition is known only from an engraving. David's work was turbulent, theatrical and lacking in gravity, giving no hint of Seneca's dignified and restrained suicide, forced on him by order of the tyrannical Emperor Nero. Instead, the painting seems more concerned with the emotional farewell between Seneca and his wife Paulina.