Painted by Jacques Louis David in 1793 presents some Classical elements of closed outline and compact composition. It is a rendition of the the Pietà ( ) by the Reaissance master Michelangelo in reference to the dead Christ, and was meant by David to be a profound memorial to tranform Jean-Paul Marat into a revolutionary martyr. Marat had been an active party member during the radical period of the French Revolution acting as a firebrand and pamphleteer. Having heard of Marat's activities, Charlotte Corday d'Armont a political enemy, stabbed him in his bath where he usually received visitors.

David depicted the aftermath of the fatal attack with a contrasted darkness - quasi religious and heroic quality- of a contemporary event. The cold, neutral space above Marat's figure, slumped in the tub, makes for chilling oppressivness. Narrative details - the knife, the wound, the blood, the letter by which the young woman gained entrance - are vividly placed to sharpen the sense of pain and outrage, and to confront the viewer with the scene itself. David's depiction was shaped by historical fact, not Neoclassical theory. The Death of Marat is convincingly real, composed to present Marat to the French peopleand meant to function as an 'altarpiece' for the new civic "religion"; it was designed to inspire viewers with the saintly depiction of their slain leader. Stripped to a spare Neoclassical stlye it may appeal more to the late twentieth-century taste for minimalism.


Lometa. "Artists and Art in the Classroom" Tucson, Arizona.
1994. (Lecture presented at St Joseph's Catholic School.)

Justus, Kevin. "Art and Culture II." Tucson , Arizona.
1992. (Lecture presented at Pima Community College.)

De La Croix, Horst, Richard D. Tansey, and Diane Kirkpatrick.
Art Through the Ages. University of Michigan: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

The image may viewed at

Mark Harden:

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