French revolution-death of mar

8 PAGES
1710 WORDS
Read the full essay 1710 words
French revolution-death of mar

History C.A.T. 1  
  The Death of Marat , is an idealistic portrait painted by Jacques-Louis David, depicting the assassination of one of the leaders of the French Revolution, Jean-Paul Marat. Marat was a prominent member of a group of people called the Jacobins, and founder of a controversial newspaper publication, LAmi du Peuple (the Friend of the People). Through the title of his paper, he became widely acknowledged as just that.    Marat used his the Friend of the People publication frequently to call for popular violence against politicians. Marat was a part of a group of people called the Sans Culottes. The Sans Culottes supported Marat, and Marat had an influence over them. The main target of his calls were largely a group of people called the Girondins. The Jacobins blamed the Girondins for the defeats on the battlefield and the rising prices of food.  

On the second of June the Sans-Culottes, supporters of the Jacobins, forced their way into the Convention and expelled the leading Girondins .  Many of the expelled Girondins fled Paris, in fear of facing the recently invented guillotine. Many fled to their provinces. In doing so they triggered off revolts in the provinces which supported the Girondins. By the summer of 1793, sixty out of eighty-three departments had joined the rebellion against the government .

Faced with such immense problems, on April the 6th, the Convention set up an emergency group called the Committee of Public Safety. This was quite a contradiction of terms, as on September the 17th The Law of Suspects came into effect.  The Law of Suspects started a period referred to as the Reign of Terror. During this period groups of citizens in every town were required to write up lists of people suspected of opposing the government. Citizens of whatever sex, age, or condition were ruthlessly executed purely for being suspected of opposing the government; public safety was in fact at an all time low. Marat was vocal in support of the executions, and this was what ultimately led to his demise. On July 13th 1793 Charlotte Corday, a woman with Girondin sympathies gained entry to Marats apartment and murdered him.

Subsequently Jacques-Louis David was commissioned by the convention  to paint a portrait of Marat. The function of Davids painting was to ensure that the momentum of the revolution kept moving forward.  If Marat was to be a symbol for maintaining the momentum of the revolution then David needed to portray him in the most appealing possible way, as friend of the People; a martyr. Obviously then, David could not portray Marat as old and ill. Davids aim was to indeed construct images of the secular saint .  By depicting Marat in such a martyr like fashion David ensured that Marats political ideologies would live on. With Davids painting displaying such sympathies towards Marat he helped the Sans Culottes strengthen support which in turn ensured Marat's and the Sans Cullotes ideals would therefore continue the momentum of the revolution moving forward. The assassination of Marat sent shockwaves through Paris. The fact that a Girondin had infiltrated Paris, and killed a leading revolutionary figure in his own home scared many leaders (in particular Robspierre) who now feared the same could easily happen to them. They needed to ensure Marats death would raise sympathies with their parties and quash any future counter-revolutionary assassinations.  

David had previously shown an aptitude for painting historical events. One of his most famous is that of The Oath the Horatii . In this painting David depicts precisely what the French Revolution came to represent. The painting depicts three brothers declaring that they would fight to their death as champions of their city against that of a rival city, for the common good of the people . The subject of The Oath of the Horatii is dedication and sacrifice .

This same theme was present in Davids portrayal of Marat.  David shows a Marat who sacrificed his life for the people of his country. In his hand Marat holds a letter. In the letter Corday pleads for assistance. This is an historical inaccuracy by David, showing the problems of representing the past,  as this particular