The Death of Socrates (1787) by Jacques-Louis David

The Death of Socrates - Jacques-Louis David - 1787

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Death of Socrates
ArtistJacques-Louis David
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions130 x 196 cm
Art MovementNeoclassicism
Current LocationMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, US
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About The Death of Socrates

The Death of Socrates is a Neoclassical painting by Jacques-Louis David that depicts the execution of the Greek philosopher, Socrates. The painting showcases an interest in classical themes and aesthetic austerity, which was popular in the 1780s. The painting’s subject can be attributed to Plato’s Phaedo, which tells the story of Socrates’ last moments before being sentenced to death.

In the painting, Socrates is depicted as an older man dressed in a white robe surrounded by his students and loyal followers who are all showing emotional distress. This depiction highlights his stoic persona even during his final moments. David’s use of lighting and color adds depth to the scene, with soft shadows cast across Socrates’ face creating a sense of solemnity.

David’s monumental canvases were perhaps “the final triumph” of traditional history painting because he adopted fashionable Greco-Roman style blended with Enlightenment philosophy. “The Death of Socrates” is one such example that portrays not only historical events but also reflects on timeless philosophical questions surrounding life and death.

Overall, “The Death of Socrates” is more than just a representation of historical events; rather it captures the essence behind such moments – stoicism in tragedy and Philosophy explored by classical era thinkers like Plato and Aristotle-while showcasing David’s mastery as an artist.

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