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BRUTUS AND HIS SONS.
The Tarquins having been expelled from Rome, employed all their exertions to re-enter the city; and the Romans, on their part, established the severest laws to prevent their return. The people and the senate, at the instigation of Brutus, condemned those to death who should presume to re-establish monarchy, and restore the Tarquin race; but Brutus, the firm supporter of the rising republic, became soon sensible of the consequences of excessive rigour in the reformation of the state.
Some Tuscan ambassadors, to serve the cause of the Tarquins attached to their king, having excited their partizans to arms who remained in Rome, were enabled to gain- over to their interests, a number of young men, who, pleased with the vices and brilliancy of a court, could not bend to the austerity of republican laws.
This conspiracy, skilfully planned, and in which persons of considerable influence enlisted, was on the eve of bursting forth, and overturning the new government, when a slave gave intelligence of it to the consuls. In the list of conspirators, Collatinus had the misfortune to see his nephew, and Brutus his two sons. The former endeavoured to preserve his relatives; but by an action which has been differently considered in different ages and countries, Brutus resolved to put in force, in their full rigour, the laws which, it may be said, he had himself dictated, and which he had sworn to maintain. Believing the death of his sons necessary to the liberty of Rome, he pronounced the sentence of their condemnation, and as consul, presided himself at their punishment.
M. David has delineated Brutus at the moment after the fatal execution, when, returning to his home, the rigour of the consul gives way to emotions of paternal regard: the idea is new and sublime.
Alone, seated at the foot of the statue of Rome, Brutus holds in his hand the written evidence of the guilt of his sons. He endeavours to stifle the sorrow which nature raises in his bosom, and to fix all his thoughts upon his country'3 good. The bodies of his sons are at this moment consigned to the family sepulchre, and the noise of the mournful ceremony disturbs his philosophic mind. At the sight of their bleeding remains, his wife rises from her seat, one of her daughters fixes her eyes upon the dreadful spectacle, and the other swoons away in her mother's arms. Behind this group, a servant covers her face with a veil.
v It was only in the power of a great painter to unite the expression of diverse sentiments, that agitated the mind of Brutus, with the resemblance of his features, as preserved by ancient busts. His figure, insulated and placed in the shade, produces the grandest effect. The group of women offers beauties of another kind; the design is pure and elegant; the draperies are in a good style; and the disposal of the three figures, presents a whole, which young artists would do well to study. The execution of the celebrated work corresponds with the grandeur and energy of the subject.