If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:6:23

Video transcript

we're in Brussels looking at one of Jacque lui dahveed's revolutionary canvasses this is the death of Marat revolutionary in two senses revolutionary and that it was painted during the French Revolution which started in 1789 France was made a republic in 1792 and dahveed here commemorates a hero of the revolution but it's also revolutionary in that it's depicting a contemporary event before this David had painted scenes from classical antiquity early on in the revolution Davi had joined the Jacobin Club this was a group of the most violent and radical revolutionaries and w10 self became quite close with the leader of the jacobins Robespierre Davi voted for the beheading of king louis xvi his signature is on documents created for the arrest and execution of members of the aristocracy of people who were against the revolution so if David was really in the thick of it he served in the Revolutionary Government he helped to dissolve the Royal Academy of the Arts and he was essentially the minister of propaganda spreading the ideals of the revolution through images and that's what this is the revolutionary government asked him to produce a series of three images that would her own size new martyrs not a Christian murder but now a martyr to the revolution this shift from Christian martyr to political martyr is an important one we have the beginnings of the end of the world of the monarchy of the ancien régime of an absolutist ruler and the beginnings of a new republic the beginnings of a world where the people participate in the government the French Revolution had been inspired at least in part by the American Revolution just a few years earlier but France would oscillate between Republican and loyalist governments over the next century a royalist named Charlotte Corday a woman who believed in the monarchy of absolutist rule when to see Marat the leader of the Revolution and by tricking him murdered him in his bathtub you can see the knife which he used to stab him lying on the bottom left corner of the canvas and the letter that she used to gain entrance being held by Marat he was a publisher so his role in the revolution was important because he helped to disseminate revolutionary ideas and to rally the people he holds this letter that she used to get in to see him David is showing look at how duplicitous this woman was she tricked Marat he was innocent he was good he was working for the Republic for the French Revolution and she came in and brutally stabbed him there is this extreme contrast between her duplicity and his nobility he is ideally beautiful we know that he was disfigured by the skin disease that caused him to spend many hours of each day in the bath but you have no sign of that here and his pose reminds us of the pietá of the image of Christ being mourned having just been taken down from the cross so the idea that a martyr to the revolution is replacing the Central Christian martyr is vividly rendered that was a key idea of the revolution to dismantle not only the monarchy but the church as well and to secularize French life and we see that also in the creation of a new calendar for the revolution and below the signature dahveed has written year 2 so we're not in 1793 we're in year two of the revolutions of this whole replacing of the old world with a new revolutionary order for a new French Republic the idea of rationalism was being violently instituted instead of the older traditional measurements for example this is when we first have the more rational metric system being introduced this is the Enlightenment this is a time of rational thinking of believing an empirical observation over the superstitions and traditions of the church and this is a painting that is all about observations is really interesting contrast between the specificity of the foreground especially the Krait on which he's written his name and written ah Mourad to Marat against the indeterminant open brushwork of the background that almost doesn't look finished it's got the soft feathery warm quality it isolates Murad it focuses our attention on him as we look around at other paintings in this museum what I see in the upper part of a painting are angels and daavid can't have that anymore in a new iconography has not yet developed so instead what we have is a lighter field in the upper right corner balancing Miraz body in the lower left corner and what a body the anatomy muscles in the shoulder and the arms and the collarbone we can see that neoclassical interest in studying the anatomy painting it very carefully paying a lot of attention to contours modeling and the effects of light and dark but what strikes me is the spareness in direct contrast to the luxurious interiors of rokoko paintings of the lifestyle of the aristocracy which was the subject of Rococo paintings here a decidedly stark interior Spartan no elaborate furniture no gold this is a man David wants to tell us lived according to the Republican ideals of the revolution and it looks like they will endure forever but soon the revolutionaries will turn against each other and Davi is imprisoned for his involvement in the revolution and then becomes first painter to Napoleon who becomes the Emperor of France and so a lot of our historians look at David's career and say where were his actual principles where were his loyalties did he truly believe in the ideals of the revolution and then become a follower of Napoleon and abandon those values or was he politically mercenary was he really looking for commissions from whoever was in control at that moment it's hard to look at the death of Marat and not see a man who was convinced of the importance of revolutionary ideals you