François-André Vincent showed two paintings at the Salon of 1777, Alcibiades Being Taught by Socrates and its pendant, Belisarius, Reduced to Begging, Aided by an Officer of Emperor Justinian’s Army. The artist seemed to be suggesting two potential ways to transcribe into painting the grand moral issues inherited from Antiquity: the painting of Belisarius features generous colors and brushwork inherited from a certain type of baroque art, while the one of Alcibiades, based on a fine sixteenth-century drawing and on Antiquity, is marked by purity and meticulousness. Indeed, the composition of Alcibiades is handled in close-up, with a minimization of depth that suggests similarities with ancient bas-reliefs. For the figure of Socrates Vincent was literally inspired by a famous ancient bust in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, traditionally identified as a portrait of Socrates, while Vincent’s figure of Alcibiades evokes Florentine mannerism of the sixteenth century.
Alcibiades Being Taught by Socrates – 1777 – Oil on canvas – Musée Fabre, Montpellier (Inv. 837.1.95)
© Musée Fabre de Montpellier Agglomération - photo Frédéric Jaulmes