Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music
c. 1811
Louis Ducis (French, 1775-1847)
On View

Louis Ducis became a student of Jacques-Louis David in 1795. Ducis is best known for his paintings derived from historical and literary episodes, as in this work exhibited in the 1812 Salon. Interest in the Greek poetess Sappho was high in the early 19th century. A popular tragic opera, named for the heroine, was frequently performed. The well-known playwright Jean-Francois Ducis (1733–1817), Louis Ducis’s uncle, referred to Sappho’s ill-fated love in an anthology of poems. In the visual arts, her story inspired paintings by both Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1801) and David (1809). These various expressions of the same subject likely influenced Ducis’s selection.

This elegant and highly finished rendering of Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music shows the poetess stirring from the deep melancholy that befell her after her lover Phaon’s abandonment. The rhythmic and decorous choreography of her attendants and the arrangement of the drama close to the picture plane recall a stage performance. A bronze statue of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, alludes to the strength of mind needed to withstand the pangs of love.


  • Artist Name: Louis Ducis (French, 1775-1847)
  • Title: Sappho Recalled to Life by the Charm of Music
  • Date: c. 1811
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 45-3/8 x 57-5/8 in. (115.2 x 146.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon
  • Accession Number: F.1983.10.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

General Count Rapp, original commission: by 1812 (sale, Paris, 15 June 1830, lot 2, to);
Plailly, rue du Sentier 6, Paris;
[Artibus, Geneva, Switzerland, consigned by 10 January 1977 to];
[Heim Gallery Ltd., London, sold 1 June 1979 to];
Norton Simon, Malibu, California, gift 1983 to;
The Norton Simon Foundation.


  • Paris, 1812 to

Forgotten French Art from the First to the Second Empire: Autumn Exhibition

  • London, Heim Gallery Ltd., 1978-11-23 to 1978-12-22

A Revolution of the Palette: The First Synthetic Blues and their Impact on French Artists

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2015-07-17 to 2016-01-04

Reinstallation of South Wing

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-10-07 to 1995-08-13
  • Bordes, Philippe, Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exhile, fig. 71 p. 210
  • Annales de musée et de l'école moderne des beaux-arts, 1812, pl. 12 pp. 26-27
  • Explication des ouvrages de peinture, sculpture, architecture et gauvre, des artistes vivans. Salon de 1812, 1812, no. 327 p. 35
  • Fère, Guyot de, Nouvelle biographie générale, 1868, p. 8
  • Bellier de La Chavignerie, Emile, Dictionnaire général des artistes de l'école française depuis l'origine des arts du dessin jusqu'à nos jours, 1882,
  • Beaumont, Charles de, Réunion de la Société des Beaux-Arts des Départments, 1900, no. 25 p. 544
  • Daniels, Jeffrey, Art and Artists, 1977, fig. 1 pp. 18, 19
  • Herrmann, Frank, Selected paintings at the Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California, 1980, p. 86
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 113
  • Brettell, Richard R. and Stephen F. Eisenman, Nineteenth-Century Art in the Norton Simon Museum, volume 1, 2006,
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 1606 p. 426
  • Joan Mut Arbós, SAPPHO RECALLED TO LIFE BY MUSIC: Feminine emotion and raison d'État in neo-classical Napoleonic painting, 2018, 1 pp.21-48
Audio Tour
English | Español
Audio Tour Transcript
English | Español
English | Español
Transcripción de Audioguía
English | Español

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via the reproduction request form.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Reproduction Request Form