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This large painting was displayed in the Paris Salon of 1814 (cat. no. 276). It depicts a scene from the play ‘Cinna’ by Corneille when the Emperor Augustus confronts the young Cinna about his role in a conspiracy to kill him. Cinna's anxiety at being found out is clear as he rises defensively from his seat, wrinkling the rug in his haste; however, it is Augustus's intention to be merciful. Although intended as a formal history painting the work was criticised for being too theatrical. It was even suggested that the face of Cinna was a likeness of the famous actor François-Joseph Talma. Perhaps due to the scathing criticism attracted by the works he exhibited in 1814, he no longer submitted entries to the official exhibition. Instead he developed a career as a prominent art critic. Despite the criticism, Delécluze's painting of Augustus and Cinna clearly influenced Gabriel Bouchet's painting of the same subject, exhibited in the Salon of 1819, now at Versailles.
The Bowes Museum
The Emperor Augustus Rebuking Cornelius Cinna for His Treachery
oil on canvas
H 214.1 x W 263.9 cm
bequeathed by the Founders, 1885