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Encyclopedia > The Death of Marat
The Death of Marat
Jacques-Louis David, 1793
oil on canvas
162 × 128 cm
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

The Death of Marat is a 1793 painting in the Neoclassic style by Jacques-Louis David and is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution. Download high resolution version (1001x1287, 138 KB) Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (French: Les Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique; Dutch: Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België), is one of the most famous museums in Belgium. ... Year 1793 (MDCCXCIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Saturday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar). ... For other uses , see Painting (disambiguation). ... Late Baroque classicizing: G. P. Pannini assembles the canon of Roman ruins and Roman sculpture into one vast imaginary gallery (1756) Neoclassicism (sometimes rendered as Neo-Classicism or Neo-classicism) is the name given to quite distinct movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that... Jacques-Louis David (August 30, 1748 – December 29, 1825) was a highly influential French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the prominent painter of the era. ... The French Revolution (1789–1815) was a period of political and social upheaval in the political history of France and Europe as a whole, during which the French governmental structure, previously an absolute monarchy with feudal privileges for the aristocracy and Catholic clergy, underwent radical change to forms based on...



The painting represents the 1793 fate of Jean-Paul Marat, the writer of the radical newspaper L'Ami du peuple (The Friend of the People) and prominently associated with the Jacobin faction during the Reign of Terror, although he was never an outright member. Marat was stabbed on July 13 while writing in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday, a supporter of the more moderate Girondist faction who came to Paris from Normandy obsessed with the idea of killing the man she perceived as a "beast", in order "to save France", and got to approach him using the subterfuge of reporting traitors to the cause of the Revolution. Marat redirects here. ... LAmi du Peuple (The Friend of the People) was a newspaper written by Jean-Paul Marat during the French Revolution. ... It has been suggested that Jacobin/Sandbox be merged into this article or section. ... For other uses of terror, see Terror. ... Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted 1860: Under the Second Empire, Marat was seen as a revolutionary monster and Corday as a heroine of France, represented in the wall-map. ... The Girondists (in French Girondins, and sometimes Brissotins or Baguettes), were a political faction in France within the Legislative Assembly and the National Convention during the French Revolution. ...

Marat often sought the comfort of a cold bath to ease violent itchings due to a skin disease long said to have been contracted years earlier, when he was forced to hide from his enemies in the Paris sewers. More recent examination of Marat's symptoms has led to the assertion that Marat's skin eruptions came from coeliac disease, an allergy to gluten, found most commonly in wheat. Coeliac disease or celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small bowel that occurs in genetically predisposed individuals in all age groups after early infancy. ... Wheat - a prime source of gluten Gluten is an amorphous mixture of ergastic (i. ... Species T. aestivum T. boeoticum T. dicoccoides T. dicoccon T. durum T. monococcum T. spelta T. sphaerococcum T. timopheevii References:   ITIS 42236 2002-09-22 Wheat Wheat For the indie rock group, see Wheat (band). ...

David was a close friend of Marat, as well as a strong supporter of Robespierre and the Jacobins. He was overwhelmed by their natural capacity for convincing crowds with their speeches, something he hadn't yet easily achieved through painting (not to mention his difficulty to speak, due to a facial deformation caused by an injury during a duel). Determined to memorialize his friend, David not only organized for him a lavish funeral, but painted his portrait soon afterwards. He was asked to do it because of his previous painting, The Death of Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau. (After 1826, nobody saw this work, representing the first martyr of the Revolution, a deputy murdered on January 20. The official reason for his death was for having voted for the death of King Louis XVI, though he was possibly also the victim of some obscure plot implicating Spain.) Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, (May 6, 1758–July 28, 1794), known also to his contemporaries as the Incorruptible, is one of the best known of the leaders of the French Revolution. ... is the 20th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Louis XVI, born Louis-Auguste de France (23 August 1754 – 21 January 1793) ruled as King of France and Navarre from 1774 until 1791, and then as King of the French from 1791 to 1792. ...

Despite the haste in which the portrait of Marat was painted (the work was completed and presented to the National Convention less than four months after Marat's death), it is generally considered to be David's best work, a definite step towards modernity, and an inspired and inspiring political statement. This article is about the legislative body and constitutional convention during the French Revolution. ...

Style : an iconographic paradox

Although the figure of Marat himself is idealized—for example, none of the skin problems from which he suffered are obvious in David's depiction—the details surrounding the subject are considered largely true-to-life. David said that he had visited Marat the day before his assassination and remembered seeing the sheet, the green rug, the papers, and the pen, saying to his peers of the Convention later on he would depict their murdered friend as he had seen him: "écrivant pour le bonheur du peuple" ("writing for the good of the people"). The name of the assassin, Charlotte Corday, can be seen on the paper held in Marat's left hand; but notably enough, the murderer has been withdrawn, although we literally watch Marat at his last breath, in other words: when Corday and many others were still around (it is established that Corday didn't try to escape). In this sense, for realistic as it is in its details, this painting, as a whole, from its start, is a methodical construction focusing on the victim, a striking set up regarded today by several critics as an "awful beautiful lie"—certainly not a photograph in the forensic scientific sense and barely the simple image it may seem.

First and above all, of course, this painting is a portrait of the man Charlotte Corday killed on the 13th of July. But there is more here than meets the eye. The painting as we know it has often been compared to Michelangelo's Pietà—note, in particular, the elongated arm hanging down in both works. David was also a known admirer of Caravaggio's works, especially for their composition and light, and the Entombment of Christ (1602-1604), kept in the Vatican's Pinacotheca, is another often quoted reference. The similarities may be the result of an "unconscious mental alchemy" in the brain of an artist reputed for his extended visual culture, but they may be deliberate. That David sought, in art, to transfer the sacred qualities long associated with the monarchy and the Catholic Church to the new French Republic is indisputable—no doubt he was expected to do so by the leaders of the Terror. Consequently, he painted Marat, martyr of the Revolution, in a style reminiscent of a Christian martyr, with the face and body bathed in a soft, glowing light, but as Christian Art had done it from its beginning, he also played here with multileveled references including Classical Art, this in order, not only to respond to an immediate political event (aspect that "ate" the literature on the subject, probably due to the impact of French Revolution on occidental imagination), but as well to compete with Rome as Capital and Mother City of the Arts, the French revolutionairs being thrilled with the idea of forming a kind of new Roman Republic. This article is about the most famous Pietà Florentine Pietà (or Deposition), the Rondanini Pietà and the Palestrina Pietà The Pietà (1498–99) by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture in St. ... The Entombment of Christ or Deposition from the Cross (1602–1603) is a masterwork of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. ...

In that perspective, more models, having a Roman origin (as a student of the Academy of France, David spent many years in Rome where he made more than 1,000 drawings he later kept in 12 albums, copied from the ancient masters) possibly interfered. Quite interesting is to observe that almost all of these models (the relief of Il letto di Policletto from the Palazzo Mattei, the statue on the façade from the jesuit church Il Gesu, the Giuditta with the head of Holoferne painted by Guido Reni or the copy made by Carlo Maratta, etc.) were to be seen in the same Roman neighbourhood, precisely the one were David stayed at the Academy of France (which was then located in Via del Corso, close to the Campidoglio). Doing so in the long hot summer of 1793 (this heat being the reason of the rapid decay of Marat's corpse which gave so much trouble for the funeral), David actually continued a fascinating regeneration process (of the Arts and of himself) he initiated earlier in the year with his Death of Lepelletier, an image achieved in less than three months, quoting his own previous Hector from his Andromaque mourning the body of Hector (his 1783 reception work to the Academy), both images (Hector, Lepelletier) reprocessing previous works such as The Testament of Eudamidas by Poussin (the most Roman of the French painters) before 1650, and the saint Sebastien carved by Giuseppe Giorgetti before 1672 (for the basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura in Rome).

Therefore, rarely has a painting been such a paradox, for this "multifaceted" image is simultaneously a portrait, an historical painting in the highest sense (the way David himself emphasized it in the lists he later left of his own works), a realistic image, an idealized one, a burning topical act, and a scholarly condensation of multiple ancient models. The key of the artistic achievement being of course to succeed in this "meticulous mix", this to elaborate a powerful and haunting "icon for the masses".

In the painting the knife is found on the ground beside the bathtub, not in Marat's chest.

Later history

Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted 1860.
Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted 1860.

Widely admired during the Terror whose leaders ordered several copies of the original work (copies made in 1793-1794 by David's pupils to serve propaganda), The Death of Marat had fallen into disfavor at the time of Robespierre's fall and execution. It was returned to David in 1795, himself being prosecuted for his involvement in the Terror as a close friend of Robespierre (he would have to wait for Napoleon's rise to become prominent in the arts once more). From 1795 to David's death, the painting languished in obscurity and fell into oblivion. In 1826 (and later on), the family tried to sell it, with no success at all. It was rediscovered by the critics in the mid-nineteenth century, especially by Charles Baudelaire whose famous comment in 1846 became the starting point of an increased interest among artists and scholars. In the 20th century, the painting inspired several painters (among them Picasso who delivered his own version) and writers (the most famous being Peter Weiss with his play Marat/Sade). Download high resolution version (1039x1400, 470 KB)Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry (1828-1886), painted 1858 This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... Download high resolution version (1039x1400, 470 KB)Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry (1828-1886), painted 1858 This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... The Torment of a Vestale, 1848, Oil Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (November 7th 1828, La Roche-sur-Yon (Vende) - January 17th 1886, Paris) was a French painter. ... The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, published in 1963, is a play by Peter Weiss, directed both on stage and screen by Peter Brook. ...

The original painting is currently displayed at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, being there as a fortunate result of a decision made by the family to offer it, in 1886, to the city where the painter had lived quietly and died in exile after the fall of Napoleon. Some of the copies (the exact number of those completed remains uncertain) made by David's pupils (among them, Serangeli and Gérard) survived, notably visible in the museums of Dijon, Reims, and Versailles. The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (French: Les Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique; Dutch: Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België), is one of the most famous museums in Belgium. ... For other places with the same name, see Brussels (disambiguation). ...

The death of Marat was also depicted by other artists, including Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted in 1860, nearly a century after the murder, during the Second Empire. This painting, made when Marat's "dark legend" (the angry monster insatiably hungry for blood) was widely spread among educated people, depicts Charlotte Corday as a true heroine of France, a model of virtue for the younger generations. The Torment of a Vestale, 1848, Oil Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (November 7th 1828, La Roche-sur-Yon (Vende) - January 17th 1886, Paris) was a French painter. ... Map of the French Second Empire Capital Paris Language(s) French Government Monarchy Emperor  - 1852-1870 Napoleon III Legislature Parliament  - Upper house Senate  - Lower house Corps législatif History  - French coup of 1851 December 2 1851  - Established 1852  - Disestablished September 4, 1870 Currency French Franc The Second French Empire or... Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted 1860: Under the Second Empire, Marat was seen as a revolutionary monster and Corday as a heroine of France, represented in the wall-map. ...


  • Delécluze, E., Louis David, son école et son temps, Paris, (1855) re-edition Macula (1983) - First-hand testimony by a pupil of David
  • David, J.L., Le peintre Louis David 1748-1825. Souvenirs & Documents inédits par J.L. David son Petit-Fils, ed. Victor Havard, Paris (1880)
  • Holma, Klaus, David. Son évolution, son style, Paris (1940)
  • Starobinski, Jean, 1789, les emblèmes de la raison, ed. Flammarion, Paris (1979)
  • Kruft, H.-W., "An antique model for David's Marat" in The Burlington Magazine CXXV, 967 (October 1983), pp.605-607; CXXVI, 973 (April 84)
  • Traeger, Jorg, Der Tod des Marat: Revolution des menschenbildes, ed. Prestel, München (1986)
  • Thévoz, Michel, Le théâtre du crime. Essai sur la peinture de David, éd. de Minuit, Paris (1989)
  • Simon, Robert, "David’s Martyr-Portrait of Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau and the conundrums of Revolutionary Representation" in Art History, vol.14, n°4, December 1991, pp.459-487
  • David contre David, actes du colloque au Louvre du 6-10 décembre 1989, éd. R. Michel, Paris (1993)
  • Malvone, Laura, "L'Évènement politique en peinture. A propos du Marat de David" in Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome. Italie et Méditerranée, n° 106, 1 (1994)
  • Robespierre, edited by Colin Haydon & William Doyle, Cambridge, (1999)
  • Aston, Nigel, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780-1804, McMillan, London (2000)
  • Jacques-Louis David’s Marat, edited by William Vaughan & Helen Weston, Cambridge (2000)
  • Rosenberg, Pierre & Louis-Antoine Prat, Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825. Catalogue raisonné des dessins, 2 volumes, éd. Leonardo Arte, Milan (2002)
  • Vanden Berghe, Marc & Ioana Plesca, Nouvelles perspectives sur la Mort de Marat: entre modèle jésuite et références mythologiques, Bruxelles (2004) / New perspectives for David's Death of Marat, Brussels (2004), online on www.art-chitecture.net/publications.php[1]
  • Vanden Berghe, Marc & Ioana Plesca, David a-t-il vu à Rome Giuditta con la testa di Oloferne de Guido Reni?, Brussels (2005), online on www.art-chitecture.net/publications.php[2]
  • Vanden Berghe, Marc & Ioana Plesca, Lepelletier de Saint-Fargeau sur son lit de mort par Jacques Louis-David : saint Sébastien révolutionnaire, miroir multiréférencé de Rome, Brussels (2005), online on www.art-chitecture.net/publications.php[3]
  • Coquard, Olivier, "Marat assassiné. Reconstitution abusive" in Historia Mensuel, online on www.historia.presse.fr/data/mag/691 [4]
  • Sainte-Fare Garnot, N., Jacques-Louis David 1748-1825, Paris, Ed. Chaudun (2005)

For more complete references about David, see the article about the painter.


  • Danton (A. Wajda, France, 1982) - Historical drama (several scenes in David's atelier, including one showing the painting of Marat's portrait).



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