August 30 1815: Jacques-Louis David’s Birthday

“If there’s ever a picture that would make you want to die for a cause, it is Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat. That’s what makes it so dangerous – hidden away from view for so many years.

I’m not sure how I feel about this painting, except deeply conflicted. You can’t doubt that it’s a solid gold masterpiece, but that’s to separate it from the appalling moment of its creation, the French Revolution. This is Jean-Paul Marat, the most paranoid of the Revolution’s fanatics, exhaling his very last breath. He’s been assassinated in his bath. But for David, Marat isn’t a monster, he’s a saint. This is martyrdom, David’s manifesto of revolutionary virtue.”

— Simon Schama on David’s “Death of Marat in his Power of Art.

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