Europe 1300 - 1800
- Neoclassicism, an introduction
- David, Oath of the Horatii
- David, Oath of the Horatii
- David's Oath of the Horatii Quiz
- Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Socrates
- David, The Lictors Returning to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons
- David, Study for The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of his Sons
- Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat
- David and The Death of Marat
- David, The Intervention of the Sabine Women
- David, Napoleon Crossing the Alps
- Kauffmann, Cornelia Presenting Her Children as Her Treasures
- Girodet, The Sleep of Endymion
- Marie-Guillemine Benoist, Portrait of Madeleine
- Canova, Repentant Magdalene
- Canova, Paolina Borghese as Venus Victorius
- Vignon, Church of La Madeleine
- Soufflot, The Panthéon, Paris
- David, The Emperor Napoleon in his Study at the Tuileries
- J. Schul, Portrait of a Lady Holding an Orange Blossom
by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
David and the Jacobins
By 1793, the violence of the Revolution dramatically increased until the beheadings at the Place de la Concorde in Paris became a constant, leading a certain Dr. Joseph Guillotine to invent a machine that would improve the efficiency of the ax and block and therefore make executions more humane. David was in thick of it. Early in the Revolution he had joined the Jacobins, a political club that would in time become the most rabid of the various rebel factions. Led by the ill-fated Georges Danton and the infamous Maximilien Robespierre, the Jacobins (including David) would eventually vote to execute Louis XVI and his Queen Marie Antoinette who were caught attempting to escape across the border to the Austrian Empire.
Marat and Christ
At the height of the Reign of Terror in 1793, David painted a memorial to his great friend, the murdered publisher, Jean Marat. As in his Death of Socrates, David substitutes the iconography (symbolic forms) of Christian art for more contemporary issues. In Death of Marat, 1793, an idealized image of David's slain friend, Marat, is shown holding his murderess's (Charlotte Corday) letter of introduction. The bloodied knife lays on the floor having opened a fatal gash that functions, as does the painting's very composition, as a reference to the entombment of Christ and a sort of secularized stigmata (reference to the wounds Christ is said to have received in his hands, feet and side while on the cross). Is David attempting now to find revolutionary martyrs to replace the saints of Catholicism (which had been outlawed)?
David and Napoleon
By 1794 the Reign of Terror had run its course. The Jacobins had begun to execute not only captured aristocrats but fellow revolutionaries as well. Eventually, Robespierre himself would die and the remaining Jacobins were likewise executed or imprisoned. David escaped death by renouncing his activities and was locked in a cell in the former palace, the Louvre, until his eventual release by France's brilliant new ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte. This diminutive Corsican had been the youngest general in the French army and during the Revolution had become a national hero by waging a seemingly endless string of victorious military campaigns against the Austrians in Belgium and Italy. Eventually, Napoleon would control most of Europe, crown himself emperor, and would release David in recognition that the artist's talent could serve the ruler's purposes.
Essay by Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
Want to join the conversation?
- Why is the Death of Marat in Brussels and not in the Louvre?(7 votes)
- This picture was in private hands (the painter's family) until 1886 when it was offered to the museum in Brussels. The decision to offer it to Brussels had to do with the fact that the painter had lived there in exile after the death of Napoleon, according to Wikipedia.(11 votes)
- Was Napoleon actually short? I see the text making reference of him as "This diminutive Corsican", but there are plenty of resources stating that he was of average height, considering the average of his time. Why this keeps perpetuating?(4 votes)
- Napoleon was 5 feet 6 inches tall, average height at the time. In his early years he was quite lean and only after 1806 did he become heavy. In his younger years he was often described as sickly in appearance, his skin having a yellowish pallor.
The myth continues because we like to diminish great people, so as to make ourselves seem greater than we truly may be.(2 votes)
- I wonder if the contemporary artist, Vik Muniz chose the Death of Marat for his appropriation found art to immortalize the head of the Association of Recycling Pickers of Jardim Gramacho in his documentary, The Wasteland.(2 votes)
- when did the term "reign of terror", begin to be used in france? i understood it was during the time when the revolution was on going. robespierre himself was beheaded, in the same manner as in the russian bolshevic revolution when the leaders of that revolt were taken out. the actual guiotine is in madam trussard's wax museum in london. they actually have the wax mask of the queen's, marie antoinette's face. she must have been quite tiny. i personally think "reign of Terror" is an apt description of the time, and the reality of the carnage. although i have read that one outcome of this chaos was that the french poor were introduced to cabbage, which became a staple of their diet. i would appreciate any information on my question. i do believe since cabbage is high in vitamin c, the poor would have benefited from this healthy vegetable. of course since the french invented mayonaise, they can quite possibly be credited for the invention of cole slaw. i suppose we must credit also the boleshevics for giving us putin. it is amazing what these "enlightened" revolutions do for the world and it's people. what is your thought on the matter?(1 vote)
- what is the gallows(0 votes)
- Gallows are a kind of frame from which a person is hanged by the neck until dead. The Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, was executed this way about 15 years ago.(1 vote)