Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Malvina Mourning the death of her Fiancé Oscar (About 1802)

About this artwork

A pupil of Jacques-Louis David, Girodet trained in France and Rome, but drew less on classical sources than on the epic myths of the Gaelic bard Ossian. The poems of Ossian, the creation of the Scottish writer James Macpherson, were published in Edinburgh in the 1760s and became the equivalent in northern Europe of Homer’s classical tales. Napoleon was particularly obsessed with this cycle of poems and in about 1801 he commissioned Ossianic subjects from Girodet and François Gérard for his château at Malmaison to the west of Paris. In this small, quick sketch, Girodet illustrates a scene in which Malvina mourns the death of her lover, Oscar, son of Ossian. To distract her from her grief, Ossian sings of his own heroic exploits in Croma, an ancient kingdom in Ireland.

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Girodet had a difficult and at times unpleasant personality, although he was one of the most talented and individual of all Jacques-Louis David’s major pupils. He entered David’s studio in 1784, winning the Prix de Rome in 1789. He left for Rome in 1790, where he began to move away from the strict neo-classicism advocated by David. He was forced to leave Rome on account of anti-French feeling during the Revolution and spent time in Naples, Venice and Genoa, returning to Paris in 1795. He sealed his reputation with the ‘Portrait of Madame Lange as Danaë’ (Institute of Art, Minneapolis) and the ‘Deluge’ (Louvre, Paris). Girodet was also a prolific writer, and his collected works appeared in a posthumous publication of 1829.