The Subjects

The subjects that were assigned for the trials of the Prix de Rome Contest in painting were taken from the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, history and, during the 20th Century, allegorical themes. Several subjects were repeated during the history of the contest, often after a lapse of several years. Erasistratus Discovering the Cause of Antiochus' Disease, for example, was assigned during the third trial first in 1774, then again in 1808. The passage of time and evolution of artistic styles can be clearly seen in these two paintings.

Subject treatment varied from one artist to the other, as they were not allowed to see the others' works in progress. Three paintings won the Grand Prix de Rome in History Painting in 1797, providing an opportunity to compare the same subject as pictured by three different artists. The three versions of The Death of Cato of Utica show remarkably different ways of portraying the same scene. Another opportunity to compare different artists' interpretations of the same subject arises while viewing the two versions of Zenobia Discovered by Shepherds on the Banks of the Araxes of 1850.

Although not depicting the same subject, these three paintings by Comerre (1875), Doucet (1880), and Gibert (1898) all feature a central winged figure, which evolves from a voluptuous floating vision to an ethereal statue.

Index of Biblical Subjects

Index of Mythological Subjects

Index of Historical Subjects

Index of Allegorical Subjects