Born to a family of masons and building contractors David studied under Joseph-Marie Vien, to whom he had been recommended by Fran,cois Boucher, a relative by marriage. After receiving the Prix de Rome in 1774 on his fourth attempt, he spent five years at the French Academy in Italy. Immersion in the art of the ancients and the old masters had a reformative impact on his style, and he abandoned the colorism of his early rococo manner for a more monumental and somber approach. With "The Grief of Andromache" of 1783 (Paris, Ecole des Beaux-Arts), he was elected to the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and his" Oath of the Horatii" of 1784-85 (Paris, Musee du Louvre) became a manifesto for the new classicism. David played a major role in the French Revolution, serving on the Committee for Public Instruction, organizing political pageants, and working on such revolutionary images as "The Death of Marat" (Brussels, Musee des Beaux-Arts). After the fall of Robespierre, he was arrested and imprisoned for a short time. David rose to power again, however, through his support of Napoleon, for whom he painted numerous portraits and grand commemorative pictures such as "The Coronation of Napoleon" and Jose'phine (1806-07, Paris, Musee du Louvre). With the Bourbon Restoration, David was forced into exile in Brussels, where he maintained a studio and attempted in his late portraits and mythologies a reconciliation between drawing and color, and realism and idealism.