Lucius Junius Brutus has traditionally been seen as the founder of the Roman Republic, owing to his part in the expulsion of the Tarquin Kings of Rome. The present drawing shows the event which confirmed Brutus as a role model for Roman stoicism: as Consul, he uncovered a plot to return the Tarquins to the throne. His own two sons were implicated and, rather than cheapen the justice of the Republic, Brutus condemned them to death as traitors along with the others involved. He then watched the sentence carried out upon them, to emphasise his commitment to the new regime.
The subject of Brutus condemning his sons had particular personal resonance for Pinelli, as it was the subject of a bass-relief he had submitted to the Accademia Clementina in Bologna in 1798, during his family's exile there. Pinelli was granted the prize for his work, which was his first taste of critical acclaim. He used the present drawing, with some changes to the composition, as the basis for one of the engravings in his Istoria romana, inventata ed incisa da Bartolomeo Pinelli romano, published in Rome in 1821.
For further information on the artist, see lot 92.