Today I watched lecture 15 of World's Greatest Paintings, a Great Courses lecture by William Kloss. I am LOVING this series! Each lecture covers 3 paintings and discusses the artists that made those works. One of today's artists was Jacques-Louis David, an artist I was not familiar with. His painting, Death of Marat, was one I'd seen before but not understood. I was excited to find out that this painting was a part of the French Revolution, a topic I'm now studying and reading about!
David was an active supporter of the French Revolution and used his paintings to stir up the passions of the French people. In this painting, David shows the death of his friend and publisher, Jean Marat. Marat had a skin condition and soaked in a tub for several hours a day. Since his weapon in the Revolution was his 'pen', he had a table set up over the tub. He also had a crate nearby for a desk. And, as he soaked, he would receive visitors.
On this fateful day, Charlotte Corday arrived with a letter of introduction and was admitted to see Marat. But, she was actually there to murder him. She was captured and executed later that month.
In the painting, there is a little blood on the note in Marat's hand, the letter of introduction. Also, on the floor is the knife that Corday used to stab Marat.
Smart History has a wonderful post about this masterpiece. And, he has more on some of David's other paintings.