VIEN, Joseph-Marie
(b. 1716, Montpellier, d. 1809, Paris)

Marcus Aurelius Distributing Bread to the People

Oil on canvas, 300 x 301 cm
Musée de Picardie, Amiens

Louis XV had Marigny commission a cycle of paintings on the virtues of great rulers. At the Salon of 1765 Vien presented this painting. Diderot commented it: "The pose of Marcus Aurelius is not displeasing; it is simple and natural; but his face is without expression; it is truly unpained, without commiseration, steeped in all the apathy of his cult." Diderot's conclusion was that the painting was a "composition without warmth or liveliness, no poetry, no imagination.... they are just so many pieces of card cut out and placed one over another."

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