Jean-Baptiste Regnault, Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure

Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754 - 1829): Neoclassicism (1760s - 1850s)

Jean-Baptiste Regnault, a prominent figure in the Neoclassical art movement, left an indelible mark on the art world with his masterful creations that captured the essence of classical ideals in a rapidly changing world. Born in a time of social and political upheaval, Regnault's artistic journey not only reflected the neoclassical trends of his era but also showcased his exceptional talent and unique perspective. In this blog post, we delve into the life, education, art style, and notable artworks of Jean-Baptiste Regnault.

Birth and Early Life

Jean-Baptiste Regnault was born in Paris in 1754, during a period of transition marked by the Enlightenment and the impending French Revolution. His family background was rooted in the arts, as his father was a painter, and his mother was a dancer. This creative lineage likely played a role in shaping his early inclinations towards art.

Education and Training

Regnault's artistic prowess was nurtured through formal education and training. He studied at the prestigious French Academy of Fine Arts, where he honed his skills under the tutelage of accomplished artists of the time. His studies were steeped in the classical tradition, which had a profound influence on his later artistic style.

The Neoclassical Art Style

The Neoclassical movement, spanning from the 1760s to the 1850s, sought to revive the classical ideals of ancient Greece and Rome. This movement was characterized by a focus on rationality, symmetry, and harmony, often drawing inspiration from mythology, history, and literature. Regnault embraced these principles, infusing his works with a sense of grandeur and a return to the classical aesthetics of beauty and form.

20 Notable Artworks

Jean-Baptiste Regnault's oeuvre is a testament to his mastery of the Neoclassical style. Here are 20 of his most famous and notable artworks, each offering a glimpse into his creative genius:

1. Cupid and Psyche (1787)

A captivating portrayal of the mythological lovers, Regnault captures the ethereal beauty of Psyche and the youthful innocence of Cupid in a tender embrace.

2. Socrates Tears Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure (1786)

In this thought-provoking painting, Regnault illustrates the philosophical struggle between virtue and indulgence as Socrates guides Alcibiades away from temptation.

3. The Education of Achilles by Chiron (1782)

Regnault brings to life the noble education of the Greek hero Achilles, depicting Chiron the Centaur imparting wisdom and skill to the young warrior.

4. The Judgment of Paris (1791)

Drawing from Greek mythology, this painting captures the pivotal moment when Paris must choose the most beautiful goddess among Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite.

5. The Death of Priam (1785)

Regnault's poignant portrayal of the tragic fall of Troy conveys the sorrow and chaos of war as Priam meets his fate at the hands of Neoptolemus.

6. The Origin of Painting: Dibutades Tracing the Portrait of a Shepherd (1785)

This allegorical work pays homage to the origins of art, showing the shepherd Dibutades tracing the shadow of his beloved on a wall, marking the birth of painting.

7. Automedon with the Horses of Achilles (1814)

Regnault captures the dynamic energy of a chariot scene, depicting Automedon, Achilles' charioteer, with the magnificent horses that played a pivotal role in the Trojan War.

8. Oath of the Tennis Court (1791)

A symbol of the French Revolution, this painting immortalizes the solemn oath taken by members of the National Assembly, vowing not to disband until a new constitution was established.

9. Portrait of the Actress Talma in the Role of Britannicus (1813)

Regnault's skill in portraiture shines through in this depiction of the actress Talma embodying the tragic character of Britannicus, capturing both her likeness and the essence of the role.

10. Sénèque Arrêté par les Soldats de Néron (1790)

In a scene of dramatic intensity, Regnault portrays the philosopher Seneca as he faces arrest by Nero's soldiers, his stoicism contrasting with the surrounding chaos.

11. The Genius of France between Liberty and Death (1795)

A powerful allegory of the French Revolution, this painting symbolizes the nation's struggle for freedom amidst the challenges posed by internal strife and external threats.

12. The Descent from the Cross (1789)

Regnault's religious subject matter is evident in this poignant depiction of Christ's descent from the cross, capturing the grief and solemnity of the moment.

13. The Allegory of Virtue and Vice (1780)

In this allegorical composition, Regnault contrasts the virtues of purity and goodness with the vices of corruption and temptation, reflecting Neoclassical moral ideals.

14. The Abduction of Deianira by Nessus (1787)

This artwork portrays the tragic moment of Deianira's abduction by the centaur Nessus, capturing her distress and vulnerability.

15. The Sleep of Endymion (1791)

Regnault's treatment of the myth of Endymion depicts the beauty of the slumbering shepherd as he captures the heart of the moon goddess Selene.

16. The Imperial Family (1810)

Regnault showcases his skill in portraiture with this dignified depiction of the French imperial family, offering a glimpse into the opulence and power of the era.

17. The Apotheosis of Horace (1789)

This neoclassical masterpiece celebrates the Roman poet Horace's ascent to immortality, portraying him surrounded by allegorical figures representing his literary achievements.

18. Head of a Young Woman (1787)

Regnault's attention to detail is evident in this delicate portrayal of a young woman, showcasing his ability to capture the subtleties of human expression.

19. The Death of Abel (1782)

In a tragic scene drawn from the Bible, Regnault conveys the sorrow of Adam and Eve as they mourn the loss of their son Abel, emphasizing the emotional depth of the moment.

20. Portrait of the Artist (1791)

Regnault turns his artistic eye on himself in this self-portrait, revealing a glimpse of the artist behind the masterful works and shedding light on his own persona.


Jean-Baptiste Regnault's contributions to the Neoclassical movement have left an enduring legacy in the world of art. His mastery of form, his profound understanding of classical ideals, and his ability to evoke deep emotions through his brushstrokes continue to captivate audiences to this day. Through his life and works, Regnault remains a testament to the enduring power of art to transcend time and speak to the universal human experience.


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