A week ago I played a game about guessing facts that happened through life. One of the question was about “The Death of Marat” and I guessed, but it reminded me how much I use to love this painting, first of all for the composition of it, but also the light, the color palette and overall the history and story behind it.

So, here I go… (Art historians don’t hesitate for a second to add more info 💪🏽)


La mort de Marat
1973 / Jacques-Louis David
Neoclassicism
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Bruxelles.
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This artwork represents the death of Jean-Paul Marat on July 13th of 1793, during the period of the French Revolution. He was murdered by Charlotte Corday while he was taking one of his bathtubs.
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Marat was a French politician among other professions as journalist founding the newspaper “L’ami du peuple”. He was a Montagnard deputy (close to the Jacobin wing) at the National Convention, first government of the French Revolution.
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On January 21st of 1793, Louis XVI was guillotined, leading into a turmoil. The months after it, Girondins (conservative faction who wanted to get rid of the monarchy but opposing to the while spiral of violence) and Montagnards (more radical faction) were fighting against each other due political differences between them, ending with the Girondin loss (May 31st 1793) and the gaining power of the Montagnards over all. Consequently, it started the “Reign of Terror” where a lot of opponents, mainly Girondins were guillotined.
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During this time, Marat had to “retire” from the National Convention due his skin disease making him to stay during long periods of time in a bathtub as a treatment relief, but he would still work for his paper.
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One day, Marat got a visit from Charlotte Corday, a Girondin from a minor aristocratic family who blamed him for the September Massacre among other facts. However, she was accepted to go in as she promised Marat counter-revolutionary information from the Caen region. Once and for all, she stabbed Marat, murdering him. She did not flee and later on she was executed.
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David, disturbed by his friend’s death, decided to pay tribute to him through a painting which later on presented to the National Convention exhibiting it.
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David paints Marat in an idealistic way, with the turban on his head, no signs of his skin disease and with one stab-wound, dying while he was writing the letter hold in his left hand, which says the day he was murdered and who did it.
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One thing I didn’t know is that there are few copies: Louvre, Versailles, Dijon and Reims. They were done under the orders of the Convention and with the supervision of David and made by David’s pupils.
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Different artists have made their own interpretation as Paul Brady.