Friday, April 2, 2010

Cold Comfort

Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793.
[click to enlarge]

The cold and stormy weather today in Seattle somehow brought this image to mind. It's one of my favorite paintings of all time, if a little grim. Jean-Paul Marat was a journalist, orator, and one of the French Revolution's political leaders; Jacques-Louis David was his friend. Marat was killed in 1793 by a woman named Charlotte Corday, a member of an aristocratic family who feared civil war.

David depicts Marat in a cold bath, where he retreated to relieve discomfort associated with a skin condition (which he was rumored to have contracted years earlier while hiding from his enemies in the Paris sewers). He often did his work there, using a wooden board as a desk. On this day Corday burst into the room with a personal petition, and stabbed Marat in the chest while he read it. Afterward Corday reportedly stated, "I killed one man to save 100,000." This sad and beautiful painting was David's public memorial to his friend.

1 comment:

* * * said...

whoa, talk about a blast from art history past! death of marat is an exemplar of the academic style, if my fuzzy memory serves me correctly...