The Death of Marat | Painting & Facts
The Death of Marat (French: La Mort de Marat or Marat Assassiné) is a painting by Jacques-Louis David of the murdered French revolutionary leader Jean-Paul Marat. It is one of the most famous images of the French Revolution. David was the leading French painter, as well as a Montagnard and a member of the revolutionary Committee of General Security.
The painting shows the radical journalist lying dead in his bath on 13 July 1793 after his murder by Charlotte Corday. Painted in the months after Marat’s murder, it has been described by T. J. Clark as the first modernist painting, for “the way it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it”.
Facts About Painting
HE DEATH OF MARAT WAS PROPAGANDA.
Not only the leading artist of his time, but also a zealous Jacobin and “official artist” of the radical revolutionary cause, David was asked by the revolutionary government to glorify three of its lost members for political gain. Essentially, David was charged with making Marat a publicly recognized martyr to the cause and an epic hero.
DAVID PULLED FROM RELIGIOUS INSPIRATION TO MAKE MARAT APPEAR LIKE A MARTYR.
The positioning of Marat’s right arm, long and limp, cascading down the canvas, has drawn comparisons to the death pose of Jesus in Caravaggio’s The Entombment of Christ. David was a noted fan of the 16th century Italian painter and also mimicked his use of light.
THE DEATH OF MARAT WAS REVOLUTIONARY FOR SEVERAL REASONS.
The first is that it depicts a martyr of the French Revolution. The second is that it was painted in the midst of the French Revolution, mere months after Marat’s demise. The last revolutionary element relates to how it marked a change from David’s typical subject matter. He’d previously pulled his subjects from classical antiquity, but here his muse was a contemporary figure.
THE DEATH OF MARAT IS THE ONLY ONE OF DAVID’S PROPAGANDA PAINTINGS TO SURVIVE.
The Death of Lepeletier was destroyed on July 27th, 1794 during the coup d’état known as the Thermidorian Reaction. The Death of Bara was never completed.
CORDAY’S TREACHERY IS REVEALED IN MARAT’S HAND.
Corday gained access to Marat’s private moment by entreating the writer to read a petition. As depicted by David, he was about to sign it as he was stabbed. The artist makes it clear that in his dying moments Marat’s last thoughts were only of the revolution.
IT HAS INSPIRED A COUPLE OF MAJOR TRIBUTES.
In 1907, Edvard Munch, best known for The Scream, made an interpretation that put a nude Corday front and center. Picasso also applied his unique vision to the subject in 1931.
THE DEATH OF MARAT HAS BECOME MORE FAMOUS THAN MARAT.
Because of David’s moving—if manipulative—depiction of his fallen friend, The Death of Marathas struck a chord and spent the last two centuries becoming a highly recognized painting. Though some viewers might not know it by name, they recognize its influential iconography. But Marat the man is known primarily because of this very portrait.