The central theme of François-André Vincent’s moving painting Belisarius is tolerance. The subject of the work is the illustrious Roman general who, according to legend, was wrongly accused of conspiracy against the emperor Justinian, blinded and forced to lead an itinerant life as a beggar. This was a popular subject at the time among both painters and writers.
The painting records the moment when the pitiable Belisarius is recognised by one of his former soldiers. The soldier’s shame at finding himself in the presence of the maligned general is palpable. Through this painting Vincent sought to propagate tolerance and unity, during a period of intense political and social upheaval shortly before the outbreak of the Revolution of 1789.