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The Death of Marat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Death of Marat
French: La Mort de Marat
ArtistJacques-Louis David
MediumOil on canvas
Dimensions162 cm × 128 cm (64 in × 50 in)
LocationRoyal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

The Death of Marat (French: La Mort de Marat or Marat Assassiné) is a 1793 painting by Jacques-Louis David depicting the artist's friend and murdered French revolutionary leader, Jean-Paul Marat.[1] One of the most famous images from the era of the French Revolution, it was painted when David was the leading French Neoclassical painter, a Montagnard, and a member of the revolutionary Committee of General Security. Created in the months after Marat's death, the painting shows Marat lying dead in his bath after his assassination by Charlotte Corday on 13 July 1793.[2] Art historian T. J. Clark called David's painting the first modernist work for "the way it took the stuff of politics as its material, and did not transmute it".[3]

The painting is in the collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium. A replica, created by the artist's studio, is on display at the Louvre.[4]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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The assassination of Marat

Jean-Paul Marat (24 May 1743 – 13 July 1793) was one of the leaders of the Montagnards, a radical faction active during the French Revolution from the Reign of Terror to the Thermidorian Reaction. Marat was stabbed to death by Charlotte Corday, a Girondin and political enemy of Marat who blamed Marat for the September Massacre. Corday gained entrance to Marat's dwelling promising either to divulge the names of traitors of the Revolution or to plead for the lives of her Girondin acquaintances (historical records disagree on her ostensible reason for meeting with Marat).[5]

Marat suffered from a skin condition that caused him to spend much of his time in his bathtub; he would often work there. Corday fatally stabbed Marat, but she did not attempt to flee. She was later tried and executed for the murder.[6]

When he was murdered, Marat was correcting a proof of his newspaper L'Ami du peuple. The blood stained page is preserved. In the painting, the note Marat is holding is not an actual quotation of Corday, but a fictional expression based on what Corday might have said.[7]

A copy of L’Ami du peuple stained with the blood of Marat

David's politics

The leading French painter of his generation, David was a prominent Montagnard and a Jacobin, aligned with Marat and Maximilian Robespierre. [citation needed] As a deputy of the museum section at the National Convention, David voted for the death of French king Louis XVI and served on the Committee of General Security, where he actively participated in sentencings and imprisonment, eventually presiding over the "section des interrogatoires".[citation needed] David was also on the Committee of Public Instruction.[8]


Detail of The Death of Marat showing the paper held in Marat's left hand. The letter reads "Il suffit que je sois bien malheureuse pour avoir droit a votre bienveillance" which translates to "It is enough that I am very unhappy to be entitled to your benevolence"

The Death of Marat has often been compared to Michelangelo's Pietà, a major similarity being the elongated arm hanging down in both works.[citation needed] David admired Caravaggio's works, especially Entombment of Christ, which mirrors The Death of Marat's drama and light.[citation needed]

David sought to transfer the sacred qualities long associated with the monarchy and the Catholic Church to the new French Republic. He painted Marat, martyr of the Revolution, in a style reminiscent of a Christian martyr, with the face and body bathed in a soft, glowing light.[9]

Later history

Charlotte Corday by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, painted 1860.
One of two versions of Death of Marat made by Edvard Munch in 1907

Several copies of the painting were made by David's pupils in 1793–1794, when the image was a popular symbol of martyrdom amid the Reign of Terror. [citation needed] From 1795 to David's death, the painting languished in obscurity. During David's exile in Belgium, it was hidden, somewhere in France, by Antoine Gros, David's most famous pupil. [citation needed]

There was renewed interest in the painting after Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Charles Baudelaire praised the work after seeing it at the Bazar Bonne-Nouvelle in 1845.[10] Nineteenth-century paintings inspired by David's work include Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry's Charlotte Corday. In the 20th century, David's painting inspired artists such as Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch, poets (Alessandro Mozzambani) and writers (Peter Weiss' play Marat/Sade).[citation needed] Brazilian artist Vik Muniz created a version composed of contents from a city landfill as part of his "Pictures of Garbage" series.[11]

The letter that appears in the painting, with bloodstains and bath water marks still visible, has survived and was owned by Robert Lindsay, 29th Earl of Crawford.[12]

In popular culture

  • In 1897, the French director Georges Hatot made a movie entitled La Mort de Marat. This early silent film made for the Lumière Company is a brief single-shot scene of the assassination of the revolutionary.
  • In Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita (1955), the main protagonist Humbert Humbert, explains his feelings "like Marat but with no white-necked maiden to stab me"[13]
  • In the Monty Python TV series episode “Whither Canada” the Death of Marat and his assassination in his bathtub was satirized along with “ other famous deaths” e.g. St.Stephen or Abraham Lincoln.
  • The composition influenced one of the scenes in Stanley Kubrick's 1975 adaptation of Barry Lyndon.[citation needed]
  • The cover art of the 1980 album East by Australian pub rock band Cold Chisel, was inspired by the painting.
  • Andrzej Wajda's 1983 film Danton includes several scenes in David's atelier, including one showing the painting of Marat's portrait.
  • Derek Jarman's 1986 film Caravaggio imitates the painting in a scene where the chronicler, head bound in a towel (but writing here with a typewriter), slouches back in his tub, one arm extended outside the tub.
  • Vik Muniz recreated the Death of Marat with waste from a massive landfill near Rio de Janeiro in his 2010 documentary Waste Land. The picture is prominently featured on the DVD cover.
  • Steve Goodman re-created the painting (with himself in place of Marat) for the cover of his 1977 album Say It in Private.
  • The painting is recreated in The Red Violin (1998), in the scene when Jason Flemyng, playing violinist Frederick Pope, leans back in a bathtub with a letter from his lover in his hand.
  • In the 2002 movie, About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson's character Warren falls asleep in the bath whilst composing a letter, recreating David's painting.
  • The painting was used as the album art for American band Have a Nice Life's 2008 album Deathconsciousness.
  • The painting was used as the album art for American band The New Regime’s 2008 album Coup.
  • In the 23 October 2008, episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Season 9, Episode 3 - "Art Imitates Life") a serial killer poses his victims peculiarly, one such victim's posture being an homage to David's painting.[citation needed]
  • In 2013, it was gender-swapped with Lady Gaga in Marat's spot for ARTPOP. MTV
  • In the 2014 video game Assassin's Creed Unity, Arno Dorian investigates the death of Jean-Paul Marat, bringing Charlotte Corday to justice. The body of Jean-Paul is as given in the painting by Jacques-Louis David.
  • The painting was mentioned as a favorite of the narrator in the novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
  • The painting is referenced by US alternative rock band R.E.M. in the lyrics of their song "We Walk" and in the video to their song "Drive".[14]
  • The cover art to singer-songwriter Andrew Bird's 2019 album My Finest Work Yet features a recreation of the painting with Bird in place of Marat.
  • Death of Marat is one of many paintings animated in the video for the song Alpha Zulu by the french alternative rock band Phoenix (band). YouTube

See also


  1. ^ Perrin Stein; Daniella Berman; Philippe Bordes; Mehdi Korchane; Louis-Antoine Prat; Juliette Trey (2022). Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 192. ISBN 9781588397461.
  2. ^ Alicja Zelazko. "The Death of Marat". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 31 August 2023.
  3. ^ Clark, T. J. (2001). Farewell to An Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 21. ISBN 9780300089103.
  4. ^ "Site officiel du musée du Louvre". Retrieved 23 September 2020.
  5. ^ Spencer, Erika Hope. "Research Guides: France: Women in the Revolution: Charlotte Corday". Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  6. ^ Greenhalgh, Michael (1989). "David's 'Marat Assassiné' and Its Sources". The Yearbook of English Studies. 19: 162–180. doi:10.2307/3508048. ISSN 0306-2473. JSTOR 3508048.
  7. ^ Greenhalgh, Michael (1989). "David's 'Marat Assassiné' and Its Sources". The Yearbook of English Studies. 19: 163. doi:10.2307/3508048. ISSN 0306-2473. JSTOR 3508048.
  8. ^ Wildenstein, pp. 43–59.
  9. ^ Smarthistory, David's Death of Marat, accessed 28 December 2012
  10. ^ Greenhalgh, Michael (1989). "David's 'Marat Assassiné' and Its Sources". The Yearbook of English Studies. 19: 162–180. doi:10.2307/3508048. ISSN 0306-2473. JSTOR 3508048.
  11. ^ "A Modern Marat". The Wall Street Journal. 16 October 2010.
  12. ^ The Earl of Crawford has the largest collection of French revolutionary manuscripts in Scotland.
  13. ^ Nabokov, Vladimir (2012). Lolita. UK: Penguin. ISBN 9780141391601.
  14. ^ Mills, Mike (21 September 2018). "Which Michael references in the song "We Walk". …".


  • T J Clark, "Painting in the Year Two", in Representations, No. 47, Special Issue: National Cultures before Nationalism (Summer, 1994), pp. 13–63.
  • Thibaudeau, M.A., Vie de David, Bruxelles (1826)
  • Delécluze, E., Louis David, son école et son temps, Paris, (1855) re-edition Macula (1983) – First-hand testimony by a pupil of David
  • David, J.L., Le peintre Louis David 1748–1825. Souvenirs & Documents inédits par J.L. David son Petit-Fils, ed. Victor Havard, Paris (1880)
  • Holma, Klaus, David. Son évolution, son style, Paris (1940)
  • Adhé mar Jean, David. Naissance du génie d'un peintre, ed. Raoul Solar, Paris (1953)
  • Bowman, F.P., 'Le culte de Marat, figure de Jésus', Le Christ romantique, ed. Droz, Genève, pp. 62 sq. (1973)
  • Wildenstein, Daniel et Guy, Documents complémentaires au catalogue de l’oeuvre de Louis David, Paris, Fondation Wildenstein (1973) – fondamental source to track all influences constituting David's visual culture
  • Starobinski, Jean, 1789, les emblèmes de la raison, ed. Flammarion, Paris (1979)
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  • Simon, Robert, "David’s Martyr-Portrait of Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau and the conundrums of Revolutionary Representation" in Art History, vol.14, n°4 (December 1991), pp. 459–487
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  • Lee, S., David, ed. Phaidon, London (1999); * Aston, Nigel, Religion and Revolution in France, 1780–1804, McMillan, London (2000)
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  • Vanden Berghe, Marc & Ioana Plesca, Nouvelles perspectives sur la Mort de Marat: entre modèle jésuite et références mythologiques, Bruxelles (2004) / New perspectives for David's Death of Marat, Brussels (2004), available at the KBR, Brussels.
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This page was last edited on 5 May 2024, at 08:22
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