Painting and MoneyThe problematic of art in modernity with insights from early nineteenth-century France*


Arpita Mitra

* The research for this paper was made possible by two generous grants – the Inlaks Research Travel Grant (IRTG) 2010 of the Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, India and the Sylff Research Abroad (SRA) Grant 2011 of the Tokyo Foundation, Japan. An earlier version of this paper received the Professor J. C. Jha Prize at the 73rd session of the Indian History Congress 2012 and was subsequently published in the Proceedings of the 73rd session of the Indian History Congress, Delhi, 2013. A revised version of the paper is being published here with due permission from the Indian History Congress.

There is an implicit tension between the discourse of the material disinterestedness of art, on the one hand, and the reality of making a living from art, on the other. The present paper seeks to examine this tension by analysing a case-study from early nineteenth-century France – the controversy regarding paid art exhibitions in Paris around 1800, which resulted in a public debate that continued in the press for about three months. The objective is to analyse the digits of the discourse of the concerned French artists and the response of critics and the public at large to their initiative with reference to the issue of the tense relationship between art and money.



‘When once this corroding lust for profit has infected our minds, can we hope for poems to be written that are worth...storing away in cases of polished cypress?’ [1] Thus wrote Horace. Around the middle of the eighteenth century, Johann Winckelmann lamented that an artist of his times felt compelled ‘to work more for bread than for honor’.[2] By the turn of one more century, in one of his letters to the press, asking for confirmation of his commission for writing a criticism piece on the Salon, Théophile Gautier, the proponent of the l’art pour l’art movement in France, wrote that he was in ‘absolute need of money’. The letter ended with the following exasperation: ‘nothing repulses me as do discussions on money. I have suffered without complaining, but this Salon which gives me a few hundred francs, allows me to pay the rents and the debts which I would not have been otherwise able to meet with the 138 fr with which to feed five mouths.’[3]


Thus, we have a pre-modern Horace at one end, counter-posing ‘lust for profit’ and immortal art; then the still idealised reaction of an eighteenth-century Winckelmann in lamenting the triumph of utility over glory; and a mid-nineteenth-century Gautier at another end (accompanied and to be followed by several others), pointing out the crude realities of making a living out of art and thereby revealing the dilemmas of the modern artist in reconciling the demands of material sustenance with those of artistic calling – both of which, curiously, in their nineteenth-century configurations, were engendered by modernity[4] itself. And finally, we have also witnessed the radical twentieth-century attempt at dissociating art from the economy and from bourgeois culture, and the impossible artistic aspiration of “vivre sans vendre” (to live without selling), to invoke Raymonde Moulin, that is, being free, in the sense of being able to live without having to sell. Between themselves, these varied positions articulate the several tensions embedded in the uneasy relationship between art and money.


Little did Horace know that what seemed so unsuspectingly obvious to him, would become a problem in modernity; in Winckelmann, we see intimations of that problem, which would become full-blown by the time of Gautier, and would continue to plague art doggedly in times to come, probably without hope of resolution along any absolute lines. Given that what we understand by ‘art’ today is a modern concept, and given that ‘modern society has been based like none other in history on commerce, it is a striking paradox that, in discussions of the arts from the eighteenth century to the present, “commercial” has been a synonym for “low”.’[5]


There have been dominant tendencies in eighteenth-century aesthetic discourses to exclude or reject the material particularity of art in favour of abstract or formal considerations.[6] But there also have been instances, where art critics – Denis Diderot being an important example – have been poignantly aware of the materiality of art, and especially that of painting, which makes it into an object that arouses ‘the desire of annexation and possession’[7].


Schiller had warned the artist against the corruption of modernity: ‘Let him direct his gaze upwards, to the dignity of his calling and the universal Law, not downwards towards Fortune and the needs of daily life.’[8] Such an outlook would be too naïve today, when the existence of art itself has become a problem. Paul Mattick, Jr. rightly identifies the problem:

a conflict at the heart of the modern practice of art - that the commodity status of artworks hinges on their representation of an interest superior to that of mundane commerce - has achieved frank expression, if only in the form of the wistful hope that it can be overcome. Fundamental to this practice is the idea that art's production differs from all other production in its freedom from the market. [...] In reality, however, art's rise to autonomous status itself involved the tendential replacement of work to the order of pre-modern patronage by production for the market. It is therefore not surprising that the "delightful illusion" of art's separateness from the commercial culture which in fact produced it in its modern form has proved impossible to sustain, and that the history of this institution to the present day has seen artists alternate between claims to a higher calling and complaints of insufficient payment for their practice of it.[9]



The precarious situation of reconciling the fact of making a living out of art – and at times, a good and respectable living – with the discursive status of art as a ‘disinterested’ pursuit became quite acute in post-Revolutionary France. The Journal de Paris noted in 1796: ‘the artist lives off neither glory nor love of his art, he should be able to find in his work what the simple artisan looks for and finds in his.’[10]


If one contrasts this with the mid-nineteenth-century artistic aspiration of “living for art, and not off art” (vivre pour l’art et non de l’art) that emerged in France, one would ask the most obvious question: how did this volte face come about in less than a century? This was, in fact, the culmination of a long-drawn process of transformation in the way painting and painters were conceived of, on the one hand, and the de-stabilisation of traditional modes of subsistence on the other. Discursive and socio-economic changes interacted with each other to produce a composite structural change in the art world.


An analysis of the chosen episode from early-nineteenth-century France would help us understand how these issues were crystallising around that time. How did French painters in early nineteenth century negotiate with changing social structures to exercise autonomy and what was their own perception about their autonomy? From our retrospective perspectives, the commercial status of art on the one hand, and the autonomy of art, on the other, make odd couples. Baudelaire’s late nineteenth-century abhorrence for bourgeois modernity and the attempt of a part of the artistic avant-garde of the twentieth century to dissociate art from the economy, have re-enforced an image of the opposition between art’s commercial value and its autonomy. But, standing at the cross-roads of political, economic, social and discursive changes, the French artist by the turn of the eighteenth century into the nineteenth might have perceived of his artistic autonomy in different terms.


Pierre Bourdieu has written about ‘the process of differentiation through which the various fields of symbolic production gained autonomy and constituted themselves as such, thus distinguishing themselves from the economic universe [...] This process is inseparable from the full-scale symbolic revolution through which European societies gradually managed to overcome the denial of the economic on which precapitalist societies were founded [...].’[11] In the French art world, while this repression of the economic happened once during the seventeenth century with the establishment of the Royal Academy and the purging of the profession of painting from all mercenary practices, it can be argued that the same repression occurred once again with the l’art pour l’art (art for art’s sake) movement. However, for all the discursive celebration of art for art’s sake, ground realities remained tense.  


The painter Bergeret complained in 1848: ‘It is not the abundance of artists that causes the misfortune [...] it is the too-small number of enlightened amateurs and true connoisseurs who would consecrate a part of their wealth to the encouragement of the arts and artists, rather than speculating on the needs of one who is so miserable as to have to accept the prices offered for his works.’[12]


In the field of literature, Bourdieu has pointed out that in contrast to the earlier ‘golden bohemia’, in mid nineteenth century emerged – as a result of the gap between the supply and demand for culturally dominant positions – the ‘second bohemia’, denizens of which were directly subject to the laws of the market and were often ‘obliged to live off a second skill (sometimes with no direct relation to literature) in order to live an art that cannot make a living.’[13] The same was true of the field of painting. Thus, the bohemian lifestyle discursively transformed life itself into a work of art.


When the artists’ prospects of financial stability became bleak in mid- and late-nineteenth-century France, the emergence of discourses counter-posing art and ‘bourgeois modernity’ can be interpreted as a kind of making “a triumph of defeat” (although the notion of “art for art’s sake” should not be reduced merely to an attempt at making a virtue of a necessity). But for all of Baudelaire’s abhorrence for bourgeois culture (based on money and market), the predicament of art in modern society is ‘the very existence of the work of art as a commodity, the pre-dominant role played by the market in the organisation of artistic life, and the subjection of artists to the constraints inherent in the logic of the economy.’[14]


Raymonde Moulin has put it succinctly: Art has never been without a price. But on the other hand, its special nature has been recognised by intellectuals. Unique and without a substitute, art is an object of pleasure which is different from all other commodities of consumption. It is mobile, subject to circulation and financial manipulation. The moment the artist enters into a contract with his dealer – as does the writer with his publisher – the process of circulation acquires a different dimension. In the earlier system of patronage, the artist shared a direct and personalised relationship with the amateur (art-lover), which was substituted by a direct relationship with the art-dealer. In the words of Moulin: ‘aux impératives de la commande ont succédé les contraintes insidieuses de la demande’[15] (the imperatives of the commission were succeeded by the insidious constraints of [market] demand). The present paper tries to shed new light on this theoretical problem with the help of an empirical case-study. Before we move into the episode of paid exhibition and an analysis thereof, a few brief remarks on historiography, methodology and so on are in order. 


The episode of the paying exhibition of Jacques-Louis David’s Sabines has been well-documented by Antoine Schnapper[16]. His essay[17] on David’s fortunes is also full of useful empirical details. Annie Becq[18] also discusses the episode of the paid exhibition in connection with the emergence of modernity and its concomitant problems for the artist. However, Schnapper does not quite raise questions from the same perspective as has been done in this paper. As for Becq, while she relates the episode to larger questions about art and modernity, pertinent to this study, the present paper also tries to situate the episode back and forth, linking it to the chain of developments, both past and future. Moreover, although the episode per se is quite well-known, the present paper examines David’s arguments very closely, which is a contribution to the existing literature on the episode.


A word about the methodology: The paper deals with art and artists but is not an art historical work. Art historical scholarship in the past three decades or so has moved into an interdisciplinary direction, engaging with complex stories of institutions, politics, power and gender. However, the focus of art history continues to be an interpretation of artworks. The present work refrains from interpreting or discussing art-works. It is not to imply that art is reducible to its social aspects. It is just that the set of questions taken up in this study do not call for visual and aesthetic analyses. This work is close to intellectual history in that it examines discourses. So long as complex realities are not reduced to monads, all perspectives are equally legitimate in so far as they serve to achieve the end in view – to arrive at an understanding of a chosen problematic.


The present work is also not in the tradition of a social history of art. However, it is quite akin to sociology of art because this discipline has systematically addressed questions related to the internal structuring of the art world; the interaction between actors, institutions, and networks; the issues of autonomy, professionalization, and vocationalisation of art – questions that are of purport in this study.


Finally, it is important to explain the working definition of artistic autonomy[19] used in this study. It is based on the two nodes of a) the possibility of drawing material sustenance from art as a means of livelihood, on the one hand; and b) the possibility of drawing creative sustenance from art as a vocation, independent of extra-artistic (commercial, political) constraints. An artist often oscillates between these two nodes in the exercise of artistic autonomy. Much quest for autonomy often boils down to a tug of war between these two tendencies.


Before we move on to the episode of paying exhibitions around 1800, let us first discuss the historical background to it.



This section discusses the development of institutions vis-à-vis the practice of art as an occupation, profession and vocation in France across two centuries.


In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe, while the notion of ‘interest’ was used predominantly in the economic sense[20], that of disinterestedness was counter-posed to mercantile values and manual work.[21] The idea of material disinterestedness of art is directly related to the valorisation of art as a ‘liberal’ pursuit. In this context, ‘liberal’ implied ‘free’ (libre) – free from the constraints of commercial stakes and manual activity – art was noble, because it was sufficient unto itself with no ulterior purpose. In the specific case of painting, this valorisation was relatively new, compared to some other art forms, like music, for instance, which always enjoyed a much privileged status.[22]


Before the establishment of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris in 1648 at the behest of a handful of art-practitioners, painting and sculpture were represented by guilds of artisanal professions and belonged to the category of “arts mécaniques” (manual arts) as opposed to the “arts libéraux” (liberal arts), comprised of the Trivium (grammar, dialectics and rhetoric) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music).[23] Painters – generally known as “imagiers” or “tailleurs d’images”, that is, “image-makers” – were engaged in the sale of their own works, as well as those of others, and even sold raw materials used in painting. Therefore, painting involved both manual and mercantile activities, and was not noble enough.[24]


In the process of the establishment of the Royal Academy and in the subsequent decades, painting came to be intellectualised and assimilated into the order of the so-called higher art forms. The institution of the Academy represented those branches of human vocation that were characterised by material disinterestedness. Nathalie Heinich writes that, therefore, the Academy came to represent a new kind of elite, not determined by birth, as in the case of the nobility, nor by material possessions, as in the case of the bourgeoisie; it was determined exclusively on the basis of knowledge capital. This new criterion of excellence was characterised by intellectualisation, de-materialisation and individualisation.[25] Heinich has further pointed out that in their bid to justify the need of an Academy for painting and sculpture, the practitioners did not question the principle of the superiority of the liberal arts; on the contrary, they tried to assimilate their art into this higher category, which indicates an implicit acceptance of the superiority of cerebral activity over manual work.[26]


It should, however, be remembered that till guilds were definitively abolished during the Revolution of 1789, the Academic and the guild systems continued to co-exist as parallel entities in the field of painting.[27] However, there was an increasing thrust from above to valorise the practice of this art form in a “liberal” fashion. This is illustrated by the case of the royal declaration dated 15 March 1777, following the re-instatement by Louis XVI of 44 corporations out of all those abolished by Turgot by the decree of 5 January 1776 to do away with the guild system. For the practice of a liberal art, two criteria were indispensible: one, the practitioner had to acquire a level of competence, which is not merely manual, but also intellectual; and two, the artist was entitled to sell only his own artwork, and not undertake commercial dealings of others’ works, or of raw materials like frames and colours – ‘in other words, he could no longer be artisan or merchant’[28]. We thus see that material disinterestedness was a significant constitutive element of the new identity of the artist.


By the late nineteenth century, the French art world went through further change. Harrison and Cynthia White[29] have traced the history and sociology of the transition from the Academic system of Salon exhibition to the emergence of the Impressionists, that is, independent artists with their independent system of exhibitions and relations with the market. They describe this transition as a passage from “canvasses” (centrality of works of art) to “careers” (centrality of the persona of the artist). They also characterise the independent system as the “dealer-critic system”, as now, more than ever, the artist was dependant on the dealers to get their painting sold and on critics to build their reputation in order to be able to sell.


Based on the historical development of the French art system, Raymonde Moulin[30] has offered a three-fold classification of it into the guild; the Academy; and the market as well as the homologous classification of the artist as artisan, “homme de métier” (man of occupation); academician, “homme de métier et de savoir” (man of occupation and knowledge); and artist-creator, “dieu libre” (free god) over the span of time.  


Nathalie Heinich[31] argues that the guild system was an occupational (métier) regime; the Academic system a professional regime; and the final regime attained by the modern Western artist is the vocational regime, where the artists emerged as individual heroes. The last of these regimes go hand in hand with the democratic ‘singularity regime’. In this regime, the artists came to be looked upon and to look upon themselves as creators of original and unique works by vocation and inclination, instead of being a mere artisan or an ordinary professional. However, such an exalted status often accords a singularity – bordering onto social marginalisation – to the artists, which is well-articulated in characterisations such as ‘artiste maudit’ (the accursed artist). This paradoxical way of characterising the role of an individual, argues Heinich, is peculiar to the case of the artist in modern society.



Let us now look at the ground reality of how French artists made their living from art just after the Revolution of 1789. During and because of the French Revolution, the artists lost their traditional clientele. The revolutionaries gave out encouragement awards, commissioned works, and organised competitions – which, however, did not compensate for the loss of traditional clients. The awards and remuneration were usually paid in thirds and in assignats which depreciated over the years, which meant that eventually artists received sums that were smaller than the amount that was initially accorded to them. Secondly, ministers changed in rapid succession which led to a discontinuity in the chain of promises made and promises kept. The last resort of artists was to chase the bureaucracy to recover the sums due to them: such was the case with the painter Peyron, who had received two awards of encouragement, but had to beg to the bureaucracy in year VIII to receive the last third of his first prize awarded in year III.[32]


Many experimental initiatives were taken to tide over the crisis. For instance, since the time of the Salon of 1789, Le Spectateur français conceptualised a “projet d’encouragement patriotique pour les arts de l’Académie de peinture” (patriotic programme for the  encouragement of the arts of the Academy of Painting). If 1200 citizens contributed 50 livres each, then 24,000 livres could be dedicated to the commissions of history painting and statues, 24,000 livres to other genres of painting and 12,000 for engraving part of these works. The subscribers would be compensated with the engravings and by a lottery of commissioned and purchased artworks.[33] From the side of the State, the means of distribution of “prix d’encouragement” (encouragement prizes) had been debated at length during the Salon of 1791, and thereafter in successive Salons. In the face of difficulties arisen out of the disappearance of usual clientele, the revolutionary government tried to remedy the situation by taking appropriate measures. According to Becq, many of these measures should as much be understood as ‘efforts at resisting – albeit vain – the development of mercantile speculations.’[34] It was only during the Consulate, 1801 onwards, that a true system of retribution by the State was implemented.


The episode of the paying exhibition of the Sabines was inscribed within a debate that spread across the whole of the Revolution. The waning of the traditional patronage of the monarchy, the aristocracy and the Church had jeopardized the means of subsistence of artists, and especially threatened were genres like history painting, which were almost exclusively dependent on state patronage.


The present paper seeks to explore the stakes involved in this episode from the conceptual grid of the interaction between the social status of the modern artist, on the one hand, and the specific development of modern market economy, on the other. One of the lasting images of the artist that late modernity has bequeathed to us is that of the “doomed artist” (artiste maudit) – bohemian, poor, ill-understood, unrecognised, unappreciated. While this image has come to be pre-dominant, historically, there existed another model: the artist-entrepreneur. Bourdieu has cited Beethoven as a typical example of the same.[35]


Beethoven’s career was situated at a time when the traditional economic bases of music experienced a deep crisis, it was in a period of transition between two systems of economic organisation. Beethoven was successful not just by virtue of an innovation strictly in the field of music but that combined with the ability to successfully manoeuvre economic possibilities to serve the interest of his art:

The enterprise of a cultural production being essentially of a dual nature, cultural innovation is not possible without a concomitant economic innovation (a fact which hagiography suppresses as something shameful). Beethoven could have become a great musical innovator because he was a great economic entrepreneur. His economic ingenuity – which was brought totally in the service of his art – consisted in drawing profitably – with a sure pragmatism, during a period of transition – from the co-existence of several competing sources of revenue that were at times even perceived as incompatible: the private salon of music and the public concert; pensions or subsidies from cultured patrons [...] and the entry tickets of the bourgeois public [...].[36]


But around 1800, France was not yet ready for an economic innovation in the enterprise of a cultural production. In his daring act, David succeeded commercially, and in his individual capacity; but the idea failed to gain any real social support, although many artists were in favour of such a practice.



In December 1799, about two months after General Bonaparte’s coup d’état against the Directory, The Intervention of the Sabine Women (Fig. 1) by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) – which had been initially estimated to be ready for the Salon of 1798 – was exhibited in the Louvre in a separate room, which was granted for free by the government – apart from also the coverage of the cost for the frame[37] – and which David got decorated to ‘fulfil its intended purpose’.[38]

Painting & Money

Figure 1: Jacques-Louis David,The Intervention of the Sabine Women (1799), Louvre Museum, Paris


Among many other things unusual about this exhibit (for instance, the excessive nudity of the subjects) that occasioned a controversy that continued in the press for some time, was the fact that David decided to charge an admission fee: 1 F 80 cents per visitor – a sum which according to the estimates of the Journal of Mme Moitte of a few years later (1806), would correspond approximately to the cost of one pound of butter, one box of asparagus, 700 g of ham, half a pound of candles or half consultation fees of a doctor, but the amount would be higher than that of the entry fee to the Panorama, which cost 1 F 25.[39]


In the contemporaneous French art system, paintings were exhibited at the Salon, which was a government platform for encouraging the arts, and entry to the Salon was always free since its inception in 1667[40], only the catalogue was to be purchased for a price. The French word for exhibition is exposition; in cases specifically perceived as a commercial venture, the French used the English word “exhibition” to highlight the mercantile element involved, as it corresponded to the practice of their neighbours across the Channel to hold paid art exhibitions (which the English did, not just to raise funds, but also to prevent crowds from thronging the premises, which obstructed serious picture-buyers).[41]


Fully aware of the unusualness of the exercise, David wrote a brochure to be distributed at the exhibition, explaining the subject, defending the nudity of the heroes, but firstly, explaining the rationale for his decision to charge an entrance fee.


David having inaugurated a new practice, others soon followed suit. The Décade philosphique of 30 nivôse (20 January 1800) announced that Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829) would hold at the Louvre a paying exhibition of three of his paintings: Mercure et Alceste, La Mort de Cléopâtre, Les Trois Grâces. His exhibition was also accompanied by a written justification, à la David; however, his attempt did not meet with much success. In March 1800, David’s pupils, François Gérard (1770-1837), Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824) and Gioacchino Giuseppe Serangeli (1768-1852), along with Regnault’s pupil, Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1774-1833), advertised a proposed paid exhibition of their works. Among others, with whom the English tradition of paid exhibitions found much favour, were Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855) and Carle Vernet (1758-1835), who exhibited at the old hôtel de Coigny, place du Carrousel, according to the Journal de Paris of 14 brumaire an IX (5 November 1800), and other artists like Roehn and Gadbois, Boze and the sculptor Boizot.[42]


Alarmed by the rapid currency that the idea of such a practice was gaining, the press, which was initially rather neutral or more or less favourable, quickly turned hostile, and attributed the poor turn-out of painters in the Salon of 1800 to David’s move, apart from articulating several other points of contention to such a practice.


In 1801, David added two more works to his exhibition of the Sabines – two versions of Napoleon crossing the St. Bernard, one of which was commissioned by Napoleon himself and the second one was a copy commissioned by the King of Spain. The exhibition of the Sabines lasted for about five years, free admission being given during the last few months, as David became the First Painter of the Empire. In the course of its run, it had at least 50,000 visitors. David had promised his students a treat each time the revenue from the exhibition would touch 24,000 F, and records say that such treats took place at least thrice. An approximate total revenue of 65,627 F is believed to have been generated by the show.


Henry Redhead Yorke has recorded in a letter in 1802 that David’s wife advised him to buy The Sabine Women for £ 5,000 and exhibit it in London. Even before the closing of the exhibition, David tried to sell the painting to Napoleon. The idea was originally proposed by the journalist Dusaulchoy in 1804, and David quoted the price of 72,000 francs – the exact sum that he had anticipated in 1790 for his Jeu de paume. Napoleon turned down his offer in March 1805, but in 1808, he seriously re-considered his decision on his visit to David’s studio. Eventually he refused again, judging so much nudity unsuitable for the Tuileries Palace. In 1814, David exhibited The Sabine Women and Leonidas at Thermopylae outside the Salon, with a brochure with descriptions and reproductions of both paintings. Finally in 1819, David succeeded in selling both Sabines and Leonidas to Louis XVIII for 1,00,000 francs for the Musées Royaux.  


David’s initiative of a paying exhibition raised concern on several counts. One was the issue of ‘expositions particulières’ (individual exhibitions): when artists – especially important artists – exhibited their works separate from the regular Salon, critics became concerned, as it led to significant absences from the Salon, disappointment of the native as well as foreign visitors, disgrace to the nation, non-fulfilment of the purpose of the existence of the Salon and apprehensions about its survival. In brief, the practice of individual exhibitions was perceived to be a threat to the ‘noble’ institution of the Salon.


Individual exhibitions with free of cost admission were already in vogue, not only in England (Gainsborough), but also in France (Greuze). Following his embroilment with the Academy over the issue of his reception painting and the refusal of the Academy to grant him the status of a history painter, around 1769-70, the painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) had started to hold private exhibitions in his studio, always to coincide with the official Salon – partly as a challenge to the Academy, and partly to keep up public discussions on himself by running into controversies.[43] David took one step ahead in introducing a paid individual exhibition. Louis Hautecoeur has pointed out that David was contemplating the system of paid exhibition as early as 1785, while in Rome, for his Horaces.[44]


The second issue involved in this episode is a more fundamental one and has a wider resonance beyond this individual case, as it bears upon a significant and tension-ridden discourse in the domain of the arts in general: the question of the material sustenance of art on the one hand, and that of art and money making odd couples, on the other.



In the accompanying brochure to the paid exhibition, David invoked many reasons in defence of his action. The following passages will briefly discuss the major strands of his arguments.


First, David invoked the example of Antiquity:

Antiquity has never ceased to be the great school for modern painters, the source of the beauties of their art. We seek to imitate the ancients in the genius of their conceptions, the purity of their drawings, the expression of their faces and the grace of their forms. Can we not take one step further, and imitate them also in their morals and the institutions established by them in order to bring the arts to a state of perfection?[45]


Secondly, David cited the contemporary example of the English: how the paintings of Benjamin West were worth immense sums of money; and how the practice of “exhibition”[46] had already existed in England for quite some time, being introduced in the preceding century by Van Dyck[47], whose works the public ‘came in droves to admire’, and who had made a considerable fortune through such means. It is amusing to note in this context that, while the French ‘envied the willingness of the British public to support the living artist; the British in turn were equally impressed by the policy of the French state in buying and commissioning works of art’ [48] – scope of citizen’s enterprise versus state control being the characteristic difference between these two societies regarding many other issues as well. 


Thereafter, David invoked the issue of autonomy, the independence of the arts, which was, in fact, his principal argument:

Is it not an idea as just as it is wise; one which procures the arts with the means to exist independently, to maintain themselves through their own resources, and to enjoy the noble independence which so befits genius, without which the flame which gives it life is soon extinguished?[49]


David, further enumerated the hardships and sacrifices that, of all artists, painters, and in particular, practitioners of history painting, had to go through – from the time required to be invested (three to four years, which naturally affected the prospects of making more money by producing more paintings – a fact which was, however, adjusted by the high price of history paintings) to paying for costumes and models. He argued that such measures helped the arts to achieve a degree of self-sufficiency, which was imperative not only for the material survival of art and the artist, but also for ensuring the freedom of the artist to paint noble subjects without any compromise from want and compulsion to please baser tastes in order to earn their bread and butter:

These [financial] difficulties, we do not doubt, have repelled many an artist; and it may well be that we have lost many a masterpiece conceived by the genius of several of them, and that their poverty impeded them from executing. Let me go further: how many honest and virtuous painters, who would never have taken up their brushes to paint anything but noble and moral subjects, have been forced to degrade and debase them through sheer need! They have prostituted their works for the money of the Phrynes and the Lais: it is solely their poverty which has made them guilty; and their talent, formed to fortify respect for mores, has contributed to their corruption.[50]


Next, David invoked the moral purpose of art (moral education of man through depiction of noble subjects), and argued how the hoarding of paintings by the rich (implying that paid exhibitions could replace the conventional mode of dependence on private clientele?) deprived the common man of opportunities to increase one’s knowledge and form one’s tastes. He also invoked patriotism, adding how this proposed system of paid exhibitions might prevent the art masterpieces from going out of the possession of the nation and help in keeping them in their native land, by citing the case of the Greek painter, who, being satisfied with what the public had to offer, would eventually gift his works to the nation.


Thereafter, he asks an unsettling question: while there is no embarrassment on the part of the playwright or the musician to draw revenue from their art, ‘can it be that what is honourable for some can be humiliating for others?’[51]


A very significant point lies in his next assertion:

[...] we should hasten to do what has not been done, if some good is to come of the result. What prevents us from introducing into the French Republic something which both the Greeks and the modern nations practise? Our former prejudices are no longer opposed to the exercise of public freedom. The nature and the course of our ideas have changed since the Revolution; and we will not return, I hope, to the false sophistication which repressed genius in France for so long.[52]


And finally, his concluding statement:

These reflections that I have proposed here, and the system of public exhibitions, of which I will have been the first to give an example, were suggested to me principally by the desire to procure for professional painters a means of being indemnified for their time and expenses, and to secure for them a resource against poverty, which is all too often their sad fate.[53]


It is interesting to note that in the letter of thanks written by Greuze to Jean-Baptiste-Pierre Le Brun[54] (1748-1813) for holding private exhibitions of the works of contemporary painters at his place during 1790-92[55], the former had made a similar case for ‘liberty’ and ‘encouragement of the arts.’[56] Regnault, in his note of justification, apart from stating more or less similar grounds as did David, also added some points on the relative difficulty of the painter to earn a just compensation, compared to practitioners of other art forms.[57]



Now we turn to the response that these moves provoked among the critics. Criticism of David’s initiative revolved around many issues, as indicated above, but the principal issue was the divergence between respective ideas of what the attitude of an artist should be vis-à-vis the commercial question. To the critics, glory and gain persisted as two irreconcilable ends:

We have no intentions of robbing the artist of the rewards of his labour – far from it. At a time, when paintings hardly sell, all the legitimate means of obtaining a price should be employed.  We would therefore not reproach David or Regnault for exhibiting their works for money. One can no longer exclaim:

            This mingling of glory and gain is perturbing,

We owe everything to honour and to fortune nothing. (Piron)  

All artists can lay a claim for a just compensation of their artworks, but the arts should never be made objects of speculation. Painting can add to the riches of the painter, but the painter should not seek to become rich.[58]


Reactions were particularly sharp after David added the two versions of Napoleon crossing the St. Bernard to his exhibition of the Sabines in 1801. Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Chaussard, one of the most influential critics of the time, who was positively disposed towards the idea of charging an admission fee for the painting of the Sabines, reacted sharply to David’s move of making the public pay a second time for works that had already been paid for:  ‘genius and interest should not live together.’[59]


Another critic pointed out:

I presume that these portraits have been paid for, and generously paid for, by those to whom they belong. Therefore, it is not a dignified speculation to seek to get them paid for a second time by the public. David’s fortune, probably mediocre compared to his talent, is nonetheless not such that his resources are wanting.

He should realize that the principle of sustenance, based on which he justified his innovation in the case of the exhibition[60] of the painting of the Sabines, cannot be applied to the present case [...] David’s peers would not support the idea of seeing his palette being transformed into a means of agiotage.[61] 


According to the same critic, the example of Van Dyck cannot be applicable to France, because he belongs to ‘a country, which has given Europe a unique example, where everything is estimated on the basis of and reduced to money; where poverty [...] is considered a disgrace, and wealth as virtue’[62] and that such an example does not befit David, who had so far professed a different set of principles – a probable reference to David’s revolutionary affiliations.



Just as Dutch painting carried the stigma of commerce in the eighteenth century (albeit in terms of their form and content), Holland being the hub of trade[63], anything English was practically synonymous with commerce and speculation for the French in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and consequently, not fit for emulation by the French society. While this may be true, the sharp reaction of the French public to such an innovation was not provoked merely by concerns of national identity. There are deeper issues at stake here. When the art critic Chaussard counter-posed genius and interest, he harked back to the ethos of artistic disinterestedness, which was evidently the dominant value system in French society, for which such a blatant association of exalted art and speculation of a commercial order was unacceptable. The French artist, on the other hand, was at cross-roads – ‘between profession and vocation’, as Heinich has put it[64] – experiencing the challenges from the real world and exploring viable alternatives that would allow them to survive – even be affluent perhaps – while retaining the noble idea of art and the exalted status of the artist.


Heinich writes that among various aspects of the vocational regime was the process of personalisation of artistic production, understandable as the passage from “canvases” to “careers”, as argued by the Whites. However, Heinich instead proposes the analytical grid based on regimes of activity, by virtue of which it will be possible to discern why the process of transformation of the art world during the nineteenth century is not so much a transition from “canvases” to “careers”, as it was a tension-ridden co-existence of two different regimes of activity, professional and vocational, with an increasing importance of the latter.[65]


The present study testifies to the existence of two such different artistic drives that manifest themselves in the discourses and debates of the period. The case of David’s paying exhibition is an illustration par excellence of the issues at stake.


Becq considers David’s experiment as an attempt to overcome with the same stroke both a painter-merchant status reminiscent of the times of the art guilds, as well as the relation of dependence between the painter and the patron of private commissions in the modern times.[66] When David’s arguments are examined closely, it would be noted that he himself considered “speculation” as vile and in his own understanding – as he wrote in a note sent to newspapers two days before the opening – what he was doing was ‘not a vile speculation, but an honourable endeavour for art and artists.’[67] David actually turned several of the critics’ arguments on their heads, and he did so, as if in anticipation. He pointed out that the system he initiated was not a degradation in itself, but a move to counteract a potential and real threat of degradation that painters faced out of want. If we recall the working definition of artistic autonomy to be used in this study, we would see that with his initiative of a paying exhibition, David did strive to achieve autonomy in both senses at a single stroke –a) the need to draw material sustenance from art as a means of livelihood, on the one hand; and b) the need to draw creative sustenance from art as a vocation, on the other. He was able to paint what he wanted to paint (historical subjects) notwithstanding the pecuniary precariousness involved in the project.


While relating this episode to the transformation of the traditional hierarchy of genres and the change in the nature of patronage, Tony Halliday has concluded that the painting of the Sabines being an uncommissioned history painting, the ‘paying exhibition [...] camouflaged the painting’s uselessness, the gratuitous way in which it had been created, and prefigured its only permanent destination, the museum.’[68] David did manage to paint a historical subject and make handsome money out of it – and all in the name of a value – the autonomy of art, and the liberation of the man of genius from false sophistications of pre-modern times. The experiment was more than a desperate response to the ailing patronage of history painting. It was symptomatic of a change where several forces – both forces of social, economic and political change as well as ideas – were at play. It had its roots in a long chain of unsettling transformations in the ideas on art, the status of the artist and the nature of the relationship between artist and patron in modern Western society.


While critics thought, a painter of progressive revolutionary credentials such as David ought not to emulate the ways of a mercantile nation, David’s invocation of the principle of public liberty and the cessation of “false sophistication” in a post-Revolutionary society, bring to mind his abhorrence for pre-modern notions that tied the artist to subordinate positions, subject to the dictates of the moneyed classes. Here too, he upturns the criticism in advance, and his rallying cry is liberty, which underlies modernity and the concomitant – at least discursive – emancipation of the artist from ties of ignoble dependence. Therefore, we see that, in effect, the same concepts (speculation, Revolutionary affiliations) were used by the two camps in defence of their positions, only differently interpreted.


While David’s inclusion of two commissioned portraits in a paying exhibition may seem to spring out of self-interest, it may also plausibly be an attempt at setting a norm whereby the French public gets accustomed to the practice of paid exhibitions. As pointed out above, David armoured his action with a cause. Secondly, even when David’s move could have been motivated by personal interests, the general readiness of many of his contemporaries to adopt this mode refers to the larger picture – of transformations and tensions, aspirations and ambivalences.


The Napoleonic period that followed is in fact well-known for the exorbitant prices the leading artists quoted and managed to get. For instance,


       David demanded 24,000 francs from the King of Spain for Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, and later 20,000 francs for each of the three copies of the same; he managed to get 65,000 francs for The Coronation of Napoelon; and received 25,000 francs from Alexander Douglas for his Napoleon painted in 1812.


-          Girodet got 12,000 francs for Apotheosis of French Heroes, intended for the Château de Malmaison; and received 80,000 francs for 26 portraits of the Emperor completed by 1814.


-          Gérard received 12,000 francs for his portrait of Josephine; he charged 6,000 francs for a single copy of the Emperor’s portrait; 12,000 francs for a large portrait; and 14,400 francs for the one to be reproduced by the Gobelins tapestry-makers.


-          Guérin demanded 24,000 francs for Phaedra and Hippolytus.

-          Gros was given 16,000 francs for his painting of Napoleon Visiting the Plague Victims at Jaffa.

-          -          Isabey asked for 20,000 francs for his painting Napoleon visiting the Sevene Brothers’ factory at Rouen; initially he had to settle for only 6,000 francs that was offered to him, but later in 1811, he returned to press his point and succeeded.[69]


In the context of David asking for 24,000 francs for three reproductions of Bonaparte Crossing the Alps, Dominique Vivant Denon, Bonaparte’s Minister of Arts, wrote to Napoleon on 13 May 1803:

Nothing is more difficult than judging the price of artistic productions. The reputation of artists, the tariffs they set on the use of their time, the flattery of those who are not supposed to pay for them, the ill advice always received by self-esteem, the natural inclination to work less, all this should always be taken into account before the undertaking of works [...] It is indeed a matter of great misfortune that the artists would not be able to enjoy a future life of blissful retirement; but perhaps it is a matter of equal misfortune for the arts that the price of some productions become so exorbitant that they serve as an example and ensure that the means of these instances being repeated are exhausted.[70]


It may thus be noted that the issue of a just compensation for art was ridden with tensions around the turn of the century. As Becq has pointed out:

One witnesses the surfacing of the ambiguities present since 1747, of a kind of contradiction between the image of the artist that was in the process of formation, and his economic situation, that is to say, the manner in which he procured his resources, in terms of his mode of integration into society and a particular type of market for art-works; a contradiction that was probably unsurpassable under modern capitalist society, and the failure of the efforts to resolve which by David between 1800 and 1805, probably bear witness to the irresistible scope and traps, so to speak, of the system of production for the market.[71] 


It is difficult to assess if David indeed failed in his efforts or not. In his individual capacity, he did not, because the public did visit the exhibition and he made money out of it. His stature as an artist was a key factor in nullifying the impact of criticism. French society, however, did not accept it as a general rule until very late, but that is probably because it was not yet ready for it at the beginning of the nineteenth century. More importantly, David succeeded in marshalling important normative justifications for such a move.


In David’s case, an interplay between the particular and the general can be noticed. In historiography, David is known for his inclination to make money out of his art. He was certainly never shy about it. And he did it, well-armoured with normative rationale. While Schnapper has documented details of David’s fortunes, we rarely come across any discussion of David’s attitude towards the value—especially the monetary value—of art-works. While, I think, that it is important to take note of the latter, as, unlike many leading artists who made money, David was articulate about voicing these issues in ideological and normative terms.


Artists at this point were, so to speak, in a precarious situation: Post-Revolutionary sensibility decried any kind of privilege in owning art. This, coupled with the real debacle in the domain of private commissions by the traditional clientele, made the issue of private commissions an uncomfortable affair. In the wake of the crisis, the state was not in a position to support the arts substantially, and especially the genres like history painting, that were primarily dependent upon state patronage due to the costs involved. On the other hand, the now exalted status of the arts and the discourse of disinterestedness prohibited artists from entering into any kind of even seemingly speculative venture. But the reality of the material plight of artists was too harsh for them not to want to avail of any opportunities for just remuneration. In this context, David’s attempt was basically one of finding an alternative to a situation that seems to be a stalemate. It was a challenge for the artist to act as his own dealer, without invoking the mercenary image of the painter-shopkeeper of the guild regime, and in the same breath, be able to circumvent the relationship of dependence implied in the case of private commissions.


According to Becq:

He [David] sought to establish a direct relationship between producer and consumer, one which clearly has nothing in common with the older private and ultimately tyrannical commission. It is David who chose to paint what he is showing. And his relationship to the viewer remains outside every speculative project, because he is not selling the painting. In this way he bypasses the circuits of the merchants and of art-loving investors, thus preserving the aesthetic quality of the work of art, without for all that pretending scorn for material necessities. The representation of the artist which this is an attempt to formulate is of a man who performs a specific kind of work from which he is not ashamed to live.[72]


The political specific of the post-Revolutionary situation in France apart, one could think of such a phenomenon in general sociological terms as well: does looking forward to material compensation for a calling such as art nullify the creative legitimacy of art? If one is to exercise art as a professional occupation one has to draw material sustenance from it, and justly so, as the artist has put in his labour and resources. In spite of sharing this aspect with other occupations, art remains art – that is, a complex phenomenon – on account of the vocational status it has achieved discursively in society. In common parlance, whatever we wish to represent as a person’s calling is usually referred to using either the trope of art or of worship. And in spite of this vocational status, those who are artists by profession still have to fend for themselves; in the words of the Journal de Paris, as cited above, one does not live off the glory or the love of art. Thus, the modern artist is caught in a deadlock by virtue of the very specifically modern developments in the sphere of art.


This brings us to the issue of modernity and the ambivalent values it has brought with itself. David was notorious for quoting exorbitant prices for his works, and Philippe Bordes interprets this as a particular attitude towards state patronage – the belief that it was incumbent upon the government to support art.[73] While this might be true, to this can be added that for David, it was not only a question of the obligations of the state, it was also his ideas on the autonomy and value of art itself. He considered genuine independence of the arts as lying precisely in that which later art discourses came to criticize as a hindrance to true autonomy – its commercial value. This ambivalence is inherent in modernity itself – which commodified and valorised art in the same breath.

Dr. Arpita Mitra completed her PhD from Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her doctoral thesis was titled Modernity and the Autonomy of Art: French Painters in Early Nineteenth Century.

In her doctoral work—which is close to the discipline of sociology of art—she critically examined how French painters in early nineteenth century negotiated with changing social structures to exercise autonomy and what their own perception about this exercise was. The reference point of the analysis was the dichotomous status of art in modernity: on the one hand, a revenue-generating activity subject to market economy; while on the other, a vocation marked by values such as disinterestedness.Dr. Mitra’s research interests lie in intellectual and cultural histories of Europe and India; modernity; history of European social sciences; and European Indological scholarship and the problems of Indian historiography.


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--------------------------.‘Artiste et marché.’ In La Carmagnole des Muses. L’homme de lettres et l’artiste dans la Révolution, edited by Jean-Claude Bonnet, pp. 81-95. Paris: Armand Colin, 1988.

--------------------------. Creation, aesthetics, market: origins of the modern concept of art.’ In Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art, edited by Paul Mattick, Jr., pp. 240-54. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Bohls, Elizabeth A. ‘Disinterestedness and denial of the particular: Locke, Adam Smith, and the subject of aesthetics.’ In Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art, edited by Paul Mattick, Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Bordes, Philippe. Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile. New Haven and London: Yale University Press and Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2005.

Bourdieu, Pierre. The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field. Translated by Susan Emanuel. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

--------------------------.Pascalian Meditations. Translated by Richard Nice. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.

 --------------------------.Bref impromptu sur Beethoven, artiste entrepreneur.’ Sociétés & Représentations 11 (2001/1)..

Brookner, Anita. Greuze: The rise and fall of an eighteenth-century phenomenon. London: Elek, 1972.

Cartwright, Micheal T. ‘Diderot’s Connoisseurship : Ethics and Aesthetics of the Art Trade.’ Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 10 (1981), pp. 227-37.

Collection Deloynes, Cabinet des estampes, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

De Nora, Tia. Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792-1803. California: University of California Press, 1997.

Elias, Norbert. Mozart: Portrait of a Genius. Edited by Michael Schröter and translated by Edmund Jephcott. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993.

Halliday, Tony. Facing the public: Portraiture in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Manchester & NY: Manchester University Press, 1999.

Haskell, Francis. Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France. London: Phaidon, 1976.

 Hautecoeur, Louis. Louis David. Paris: La Table Ronde, 1954.

Heinich, Nathalie. Du peintre à l’artiste: Artisans et Académiciens à l’âge classique.Paris: Minuit, 1993.

--------------------------.L’élite artiste : Excellence et singularité en régime démocratique. Paris: Editions Gallimard, 2005.

 Hirschman, Albert O. The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.

 Jourdan, Annie. ‘Napoleon and his artists: in the grip of reality.’ In Taking Liberties: Problems of a New Order from the French Revolution to Napoleon, edited by Howard G. Brown and Judith A. Miller. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.

 Kearns, James. Théophile Gautier, Orator to the Artists: Art Journalism of the Second Republic. London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2007.

 Kristeller, Paul Oskar. ‘The Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics Part I.’ Journal of the History of Ideas 12(4) (1951), pp. 496-527.

Mattick Jr., Paul, ‘Art and money.’ In Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art, edited by Paul Mattick, Jr. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

 --------------------------.Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

 Moulin, Raymonde. ‘De l’artisan au professionnel : l’artiste.’ Sociologie du travail 4 (1983), pp. 388-403.

--------------------------.Vivre sans vendre.’ In De la valeur de l’art, pp. 17-33. Paris: Flammarion, 1995.

Nouvelle Archives de l’Art français (1874-75). Paris, 1875.

Sapiro, Gisèle. ‘La vocation artistique. Entre don et don de soi.’ Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 168 (2007/3), pp. 4-11.

 Schnapper, Antoine. ‘David et l’argent.’ In David contre David, edited by Régis Michel, vol. II, pp. 911-26. Paris: Musée du Louvre, 1993.

Schnapper, Antoine. Jacque-Louis David. Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1989.

Vivant Denon, Directeur des Musées sous le Consulat et l’Empire. Correspondance, 2 vols. Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1999.

White, Harrison C. and Cynthia A. White. Canvasses and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965, 1993 edition.

Whiteley, Jon. ‘Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting in London and Paris 1760-1860.’ In Saloni, Gallerie, Musei e loro influenza sullo sviluppo dell’Arte dei secoli XIX e XX, edited by Francis Haskell. Bologna: CLUEB, 1979.


[1] Horace, On the Art of Poetry, in Classical Literary Criticism, trans. T. S. Dorsch, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965, p. 90, as cited in Paul Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art, ed. Paul Mattick, Jr., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 157.

 [2] Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Reflections on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture (1755), trans. E. Heyer and R. C. Norton, La Salle: Open Court, 1987, p. 55, modified translation as cited in Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ p. 172.

 [3]James Kearns, Théophile Gautier, Orator to the Artists: Art Journalism of the Second Republic, London: Modern Humanities Research Association, 2007, p. 181; translation mine.

[4] As the title of the paper indicates, the relationship between art and modernity is going to be dwelt upon here. This relationship is multi-dimensional. Commonly, we tend to associate modernity and art in terms of the impact of the former on the content and form of the latter (modernism). The present work does not deal with the relationship from this perspective. Instead, it seeks to explore the impact of the structural changes brought about by modernity – both as a socio-economic formation and as a discourse – in the artistic field of early nineteenth-century France.

 [5] Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ p. 152.

[6] Elizabeth A. Bohls, ‘Disinterestedness and denial of the particular: Locke, Adam Smith, and the subject of aesthetics,’ in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics, ed.Mattick, Jr., p. 17.

[7]Michael T. Cartwright, ‘Diderot’s Connoisseurship: Ethics and Aesthetics of the Art Trade,’ Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture 10 (1981), p. 227.

[8]Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, ed. and trans. E. M. Wilkinson and L. A. Willoughby, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967, p. 57, as cited in Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ pp. 175-76.

[9]Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ pp. 176-77.

[10]l’artiste ne vit ni de gloire ni de l’amour de son art, il doit trouver dans son travail ce que le simple artisan cherche et trouve dans le sien »’ as cited in Annie Becq, ‘Expositions, peintres et critiques : vers l’image moderne de l’artiste,’ Dix-huitème siècle, special issue ‘Au Tournant des Lumières : 1780-1820’, 14 (1982), p. 146; translation mine.

[11]Pierre Bourdieu, Pascalian Meditations, trans. Richard Nice, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000, pp. 17-18.

[12]Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret, Lettre d’un artiste sur l’état des arts en France(Paris, 1848), pp. 18-19, translation as cited in Harrison C. White and Cynthia A. White, Canvasses and Careers: Institutional Change in the French Painting World, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965, 1993, p. 1.

[13]Pierre Bourdieu, The Rules of Art: Genesis and Structure of the Literary Field, trans. Susan Emanuel, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996, p. 57. For details on the gap between the supply and demand for dominant positions, see pp. 54-55.

[14]l’existence de l’œuvre d’art en tant que marchandise, le rôle prédominant assumé par le marché dans l’organisation de la vie artistique, l’assujettissement des artistes aux contraintes inhérentes à la logique de l’économie », Raymonde Moulin, ‘Vivre sans vendre,’ in De la valeur de l’art, Paris: Flammarion, 1995, p. 17; translation mine.

[15]Moulin, ‘Vivre sans vendre,’ p. 19.

[16] Antoine Schnapper, Jacques-Louis David, 1748-1825, ParisRéunion des Musées nationaux, 1989.


[17] Antoine Schnapper, ‘David et l’argent,’ in David contre David, ed. Regis Michel, vol. II, Paris: Musée du Louvre, 1993, pp. 911-26.

[18] Annie Becq, ‘Artiste et marché,’ in La Carmagnole des Muses : L’homme de lettres et l’artiste dans la Révolution, ed. Jean-Claude Bonnet, Paris: Armand Colin, 1988, pp. 81-95; Annie Becq,‘Creation, aesthetics, market: origins of the modern concept of art,’ in Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics, ed. Mattick, Jr., pp. 240-54.

 [19] Autonomy as well as the autonomy of art has been defined by many theorists from different points of departure. These theories are not being discussed here as they are not particularly relevant to the study.

[20]Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977.

[21]Gisèle Sapiro, ‘La vocation artistique entre don et don de soi,’ Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales 168 (2007/3), p. 6.

[22]For details, see Paul Oskar Kristeller, ‘The Modern System of the Arts: A Study in the History of Aesthetics Part I,’ Journal of the History of Ideas 12(4) (1951), pp. 496-527.

[23] Nathalie Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste : Artisans et Académiciens à l’âge classique, ParisMinuit, 1993, p. 7.

 [24]The Greeks had not assigned any Muse to either painting or sculpture.

[25]Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste, p. 11.

[26] Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste, p. 16.

 [27] Based on the data available, it can be estimated that by 1700, only 178 artists (8%) were Academicians, while the vast majority (86%) – about 1820 artists – exercised their profession outside the orbit of the Academy. Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste, p. 241.

 [28] Nathalie Heinich, L’élite artiste : Excellence et singularité en régime démocratique, ParisGallimard, 2005, pp. 46-47.

 [29] White and White, Canvasses and Careers.

[30] Raymond Moulin, ‘De l’artisan au professionnel : l’artiste,’ Sociologie du travail, 4 (1983), pp. 388-403.

 [31] Heinich, L’élite artiste.

 [32]Annie Jourdan, ‘Napoleon and his artists: in the grip of reality,’ in Taking Liberties: Problems of a New Order from the French Revolution to Napoleon, ed. Howard G. Brown and Judith A. Miller, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002, p. 187.

[33]Schnapper, Jacques-Louis David, p. 328.

[34]Becq, ‘Artiste et marché,’ p. 81; translation mine.

[35] It might be of interest to compare the contrasting careers of Mozart and Beethoven. For sociological works on the same, see Norbert Elias, Mozart: Portrait of a Genius, ed. Michael Schröter, trans. Edmund Jephcott, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993 and Tia De Nora, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in Vienna, 1792-1803, California: University of California Press, 1997.

 [36] Pierre Bourdieu, ‘Bref impromptu sur Beethoven, artiste entrepreneur,’Sociétés & Représentations 11 (2001/1), pp. 16-17 ; translation mine; emphasis in original.

 [37] The Ministre de l’Intérieur, François de Neufchâteau, had agreed to bear the costs of the frame, which was 4,000 francs.

[38] Philippe Bordes, Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile, New Haven: Yale University Press & Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2005, p. 10. In a letter dated 9 August 1800, David sought a reimbursement of the “frais d’aménagement “immeubles”” (charges for the renovation of the exhibition room). Lucien Bonaparte, the then Minister, refused, and adhered to the dispensation of the sum of 533.79 francs that his predecessor had spent for a renovation of the room. See Schnapper,Jacques-Louis David, p. 332.

 [39]Schnapper, ‘David et l’argent,’ p. 918.

[40]It was in 1857 that the state introduced an admission fee. For details, see Jon Whiteley, ‘Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting in London and Paris 1760-1860,’ inSaloni, Gallerie, Musei e loro influenza sullo sviluppo dell’Arte dei secoli XIX e XX, ed. Francis Haskell, Bologna: CLUEB, 1979, p. 69.

[41] Whiteley, ‘Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting,’ p. 69.

 [42]For details, see Whiteley, ‘Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting,’ p. 73.

[43]Anita Brookner, Greuze: The rise and fall of an eighteenth-century phenomenon, London: Elek, 1972, p. 72.

[44]Louis Hautecoeur, Louis David, Paris: La Table Ronde, 1954.

[45]Jacques-Louis David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines’ (1799), translation as published in Art in Theory, 1648-1815: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, ed. Charles Harrison, Paul Wood, and Jason Gaiger, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000, pp. 1119-20.

[46] The English word ‘exhibition’ is used in the original French text.

 [47] Modern historiography contradicts this contention. For details, see Schnapper, Jacques-Louis David, p. 329.

 [48]Whiteley, ‘Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting,’ p. 72.

 [49] David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines,’ p. 1120.

 [50] David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines,’ p. 1120.

 [51]David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines,’ p. 1121.

 [52]David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines,’ p. 1121; emphasis added.

[53]David, ‘The Painting of the Sabines,’ p. 1122.

 [54] ‘Artist, historian, dealer, politician, a friend of the leading painters of the day, the survivor of revolution and tyranny’, ‘the last (and possibly the greatest) in a long and distinguished line of eighteenth-century French dealer-connoisseurs’ and who ‘has gone down to history as an unscrupulous gambler and womanizer’ thanks to the testimonies of a disillusioned wife, the painter Elizabeth Vigée (1755-1842). Francis Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art: Some Aspects of Taste, Fashion and Collecting in England and France, London: Phaidon, 1976, p. 18.

[55] Haskell, Rediscoveries in Art, pp. 18-19.

 [56] Nouvelles Archives de l’Art français (1874-75), Paris, 1875, p. 435.

 [57]‘Exposition de trios tableaux dans une des salles du Palais national des Sciences et des Arts…par le Citoyen Regnault…,’ Paris, Delance, an VIII [1800], Collection Deloynes, vol. 21, no. 603.

[58]‘Sur les expositions particulières,’ in Coup d’œil sur le Salon de l’an VIII, Paris, Bernard & Debray, an IX [1800-01], Collection Deloynes, vol. 22, no. 627, pp. 441-42 ; translation mine, emphasis added.

[59] Journal des Arts, 5 brumaire an X (27 October 1801), Collection Deloynes, no. 699; translation mine.

 [60] The English word ‘exhibition’ is used in the original French text.

 [61]‘De deux tableaux de David,’1801, Collection Deloynes, vol. 27, no. 712, pp. 517-18; translation mine.

[62] ‘De deux tableaux de David,’ pp. 519-20; translation mine.

 [63]Mattick, Jr., ‘Art and money,’ pp. 165-67.

[64]Heinich, L’élite artiste, pp. 66-68.

[65]Heinich, L’élite artiste, p. 68.

[66]Becq, ‘Artiste et marché,’ p. 87.

[67]Bordes, Jacques-Louis David, p. 13.

[68] Tony Halliday, Facing the public: Portraiture in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Manchester & NY: Manchester University Press, 1999, p. 188.

[69] For these details, see Jourdan, ‘Napoleon and his artists’. However, these were leading painters; there were painters who got modest sums too, for instance, the painter Robert Lefèvre received 3,000 or 3,500 francs for Napoleon’s portraits.

 [70] « Rien n’est plus difficile que de prononcer sur le prix des productions des arts. La réputation des artistes, le taux qu’ils ont mis à l’emplois de leur tems, la flatterie de ceux qui ne doivent pas les payer, les mauvais conseils toujours reçus par l’amour-propre, l’intérêt et l’envie naturelle de peu travailler, tout cela devrait toujours être prévu avant que les ouvrages fussent entrepris, afin que chacun scût à quoi s’en tenir lorsqu’ils sont terminés. Ce serait sans doute un grand malheur que les artistes ne pussent pas entrevoir dans l’avenir la jouissance d’un doux repos ; mais c’est peut-être un malheur aussi grand pour les arts, que le prix de certaines productions devienne si exhorbitant qu’il serve de type et fasse qu’il ne se trouve plus de moyens de les faire exécuter ou de les faire répéter. » Vivant Denon, Directeur des Musées sous le Consulat et l’Empire. Correspondance, Paris: Réunion des Musées nationaux, 1999, p. 1245; translation mine.

 [71]On assiste à la révélation d’ambiguïtés présentes dès 1747, d’une sorte de contradiction entre l’image en voie de constitution de l’artiste et sa situation économique, c’est-à-dire la manière dont il se procure des ressources, en fonction de son mode d’intégration à la société et du type de marché de l’œuvre d’art ; contradiction probablement indépassable dans le cadre de la société moderne capitaliste et dont l’échec des tentatives d’un David pour la résoudre, entre 1800 et 1805, témoigne peut-être de l’irrésistible extension et des ruses, pour ainsi dire, du système de production pour le marché. » Becq, ‘Expositions, peintres et critiques,’ p. 138.


[72] Becq, ‘Creation, aesthetics, market,’ pp. 253-54; emphasis mine.

 [73]Bordes, Jacques-Louis David.