Jacques Louis David, The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804, 1806-7
Another difference between the two pictures lies in the way they compose the ceremonies. Jacques-Louis David gives every individual an appointed place in an orderly grouping of figures, and - in line with academic protocol for history painting of this kind - all eyes are on the central event. In Courbet's painting, however, forty-seven figures are casually compressed in a stage-like rectangle in which most do not seem focused on the actual ceremony; instead, they gaze in many directions. Indeed, while David invites us to appreciate the grandeur of Napoleon's Coronation, Courbet excludes any trace of sentimentality: although we know the funeral must be sorrowful, the picture seems to deliberately avoid conveying that. Finally, while David's composition points us to a living hero, Courbet's directs us to the empty grave for an ordinary individual, a country relative of the painter. The liberties Courbet took with subject-matter and composition corresponded with the influence of photography inspiring many modernist painters to see snapshot-like designs as a valid way to compose a picture.