ISECS 2023: Artistic Networks and Roman Encounters: Ignazio Degotti and Jacques-Louis David in Rome in 1784

In 1784, the Piedmontese stage designer Ignazio Degotti (1758-1824) moved to Rome, engaged to work at the Teatro Argentina. In that same year, the French painter Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) embarked on his second Roman sojourn, with the specific purpose of painting The Oath of the Horatii. In 1790, Degotti moved to Paris. Here, among prestigious theatre engagements, he also worked for David on several occasions and, as a sign of recognition, Degotti’s image was included in the iconic painting Le Sacre de Napoleon (1805 – 1807), right next to David’s self-portrait. By reconstructing a puzzle of contingencies not yet archivally documented, this paper interrogates the possibility that before their documented working relationship in Paris, the two artists had first met in Rome, through a common social environment. With sociability in consideration, we visit the Académie de France at the Palazzo Mancini, not far from The Teatro Argentina in 1784. Both places were devoted to social gatherings and congregations, allowing a community of French and Italian artists to meet and discuss subjects pertaining to antiquity.

This paper explores the role that the daily social life and the geographical proximity of the two cultural institutions played in consolidating artistic networks among visual and theatral artists in Rome. It also highlights how the thematic choices of visual painters, overlapped to some extent with the stage commissions of the theatre decorators, potentially influenced by the informal meetings afforded by a particular artistic location.