In the center of the 18th century, French artist Jacques-Louis David pioneered a new genre the painting. Aptly title Neoclassical, this activity was viewed as a rebirth of the idealized arts of old Greece and also Rome. Despite rendered in a format reminiscent of antiquity, Neoclassical paintings regularly feature contemporary scenes and also subjects. This is the case in countless of David"s works, including The fatality of Marat,one of his most renowned paintings.

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The death of Marat to be completed in 1793, four years ~ the onset of the French Revolution. Like lot of David"s art created during this decade, The fatality of Marat is apolitically-charged piece handling a significant event of the time. In this case, that is the murder ofJean-Paul Marat, a radical political theorist,friend of David, and vital figure of the French Revolution.

Historical Context

Before analyzing the contents of the painting, it"s necessary to understand the context of that is creation—namely, the events that brought about Marat"s death.By the time he died, Marat was deeply affiliated in the drama of the French Revolution, a period of political and social turmoil that swept throughout the nation from 1789 till the so late 1790s.


” Storming the the Bastille and also arrest the the branch M. De Launay, July 14, 1789″ (Photo: Wikimedia Commons windy Domain)

What sparked this movement? frustrated by the discrepancy between the wealth of the imperial family and also the highly-taxed and also underpaid citizens of France, the civilization rebelled versus the monarchy and demanded change. Revolutionary ideas were also heavily shame by the Enlightenment, one 18th-century intellectual movement the emphasizedindividualism. During this time, philosophers, writers, and other pundits flocked come Paris, where they discussed, created about, and distributed their ideas in the develops of pamphlets, books, and also newspapers.


Henri Grevedon and Francois Seraphin Delpech, “Jean-Paul Marat,” 1824 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons public Domain)

As the French revolution emerged top top the heels of the Enlightenment, pendant of the cause embraced and adjusted many aspects of the movement—including the usage of media to share their ideas. Formerly a doctor and scientist, Jean-Paul Marat exit his methods to job-related as a journalist. In 1789, he established a newspaper, L"Ami du peuple(“The People"s Friend”) to condemn the opponents of the cause—even other revolutionaries.

Politically, Marat"s views aligned through the Jacobins, one of the most radical next to come the end of the Revolution. Eventually, the would end up being the leader that this group, placing him at boosted odds v the Girondins, one more revolutionary faction Marat regularly attacked from his influential platform.

As expected, Marat"s conspicuous criticism of several of France"s most elite individuals and powerful groups made the a significant target to adversaries. In 1790, he narrowly escaped arrest; on number of occasions through 1792, he was forced into hiding; and, finally, in 1793, he was assassinated in his very own home.

Marat"s Murder


Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry, “Charlotte Corday,” 1860 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons public Domain)

On July 13, 1793, Marat was composing while in his bathtub. Outfitted with a wooden board, his bathtub also served as a makeshift desk, together the discomfort of a chronic skin problem often border him come the bath. As he was working, his wife notified him that he had a visitor namedCharlotte Corday. Corday claimed to have actually confidential information around a team of fugitive Girondins, piquing Marat"s interests. Versus his wife"s wishes, he invite the stranger come sit by his bathtub so he can write down the surname of the offenders.

At the end of the conversation, Corday—an undercover Girondin sympathizer—unexpectedly traction a 5-inch knife from her dress. She easily plunged it into Marat"s heart, and also then hid in his home, wherein she was at some point found and arrested. Marat dubbed for his wife, but nothing could be done; he was dead in ~ seconds.

As both a close friend of Marat and also a other Jacobin, Jacques-Louis David to be tasked v two responsibilities: plan the funeral and also paint his death scene.

The Painting


Jacques-Louis David, “The fatality of Marat,” 1793 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons public Domain)

David completed The fatality of the Marat in his signature Neoclassical style. The item depicts Marat moments after his murder, as he is displayed slumped end his blood-soaked bathtub with quill tho in hand.

Like other Neoclassical paints by David, The death of the Marat featuresa perfectly well balanced composition; Marat and his bath tub form a horizontal airplane in the foreground, i beg your pardon offsets the scene"s minimalist backdrop. This arrangement culminates in a theatrical step reminiscent the a stage production, together a literal meaning spotlight illuminates the key character and also a choice of strategically inserted props, consisting of his freshly-written list and the bloodied killing weapon, which rests on the floor.

Another Neoclassical characteristic obvious in The fatality of Maratis an interest inClassical idealism. While both the style and most of the details that the bathtub setup space true come life, David choose to glamorize Marat himself, foregoing a realistic calculation of his clearly shows dermatitis for a glimpse that the blemish-free skin. Along with Marat"s Pietà-like positioning, this strategic decision depicts Marat together a flawless martyr.

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The death of Marat was very popular with revolutionaries, finishing in the existence of several copies painted by David"s pupils as propaganda. However, ~ the Revolution, the painting fell out of fashion, and also was covert somewhere in France for number of years. In the center of the 19th century, that re-merged from obscurity, and landed a permanent location in the collection of the imperial Museum of fine Arts in Brussels, whereby it has actually remained ever before since.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer in ~ My contemporary Met. One art historian living in Paris, Kelly to be born and raised in mountain Francisco and also holds a BA in Art history from the college of mountain Francisco and also an MA in Art and Museum studies from Georgetown University. Once she’s not writing, friend can discover Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tourism (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC human being News America and also France 24) or merely taking a stroll v her husband and also two small daughters.
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