Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe


Jacques-Louis David ( French, 1748 - 1825 )

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General Description

Niobe, the queen of Thebes, shelters her youngest daughter from Apollo and Diana‘s arrows. The queen’s thirteen other children lie wounded or dead in the painting’s foreground. This violent scene, drawn from a 1st-century Roman poem, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, illustrates Niobe’s punishment for boasting of her own power and fertility and for refusing to pay homage to the mother of her attackers.

Jacques-Louis David completed this painting when he was only twenty-four years old as part of his second bid to win the Prix de Rome, the ultimate prize for students in the French Royal Academy. David was deeply disappointed when the work was not given the top honor, and he subsequently attempted to starve himself to death. Fortunately, a fellow artist persuaded him to return to his studies at the Academy, and David finally won the prize in 1774.

Excerpt from

Nicole R. Myers, DMA label copy, 2018.

Related Multimedia

Listen to the excerpt from Ovid's Metamorphoses that inspired this painting.
a reading of a selection from Ovid's Metamorphosis that served as the inspiration for Jacques-Louis David's painting of Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe, DMA Collection, 2008.6.FA

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