« PreviousContinue »
BELISARIUs, who had so frequently led to victory the troops of the Emperor Justinian--who concluded an honourable peace with Cabades—took Carthage-defeated the Vandals-returned conqueror to Constantinople, and numbered among his prisoners a rebellious prince, whom he caused to increase his triumph—this very Belisarius, who, after having successively steered his fleet to the coast of Sicily, taken possession of Catanea, Syracuse, Palermo, and Naples-opposed the successor of Theodatesrefused the crown offered by the vanquished to the victor -fought Chosröes king of Persia, whom he put to flight -Aed to the succour of Rome, besieged by Totila the Gothic king, and preserved the city from destruction: the saviour, in short, of the empire, whose name and achievements the people of Constantinople venerated and extolled:
- This hero, worthy of a better fate, fell a victim to the jealousy of the great, or rather to the weakness of a mistrustful and cruel emperor. Reduced to the most deplorable condition, deprived of his sight, he presents, in the picture before us, where in that miserable state he is recognized by a Roman soldier who had served under his banners, a sad example of the inconstancy of fortune, and of the ingratitude of mankind.
Historians by no means agree as to the last epoch of the life of Belisarius; but after this manner it was offered to the pencil of the artist, and M. David has omitted nothing that could give tenderness to the scene. It is, however, to be remarked, that we are still in possession of the medals of Justinian, representing, on one side, the emperor receiving Belisarius, conqueror of the Goths, and on the reverse, the image of Belisarius, with these words, Belisarius gloria Romanorum. What a contrast do these exhibit to those circumstances which tradition has preserved, and which it is pretended that Belisarius displayed from the walls of his prison, to move the pity of those that passed - Date obolum Belisario! This inscription David has placed in his picture, the subject of which it would fully explain, could it, in so fine a painting, be in the least degree equivocal.
This celebrated work was executed at Rome, and exhibited at Paris in the year 1782. The etching is not sketched from the picture, but from the engraving by Morel, in which the author made some alterations under the direction of the painter. The figures of the picture are of the natural size.