Monday, August 1, 2022

"L'Ami du peuple" and The Death of Marat

I can't stay away from my longstanding obsession with French culture. This week on The Charrette, I wrote about a painting that has held my attention captive since my college years. My art history professor told me about this painting sometime in 2011, and I was fascinated by the story of this journalist, Jean-Paul Marat, a French Revolutionary figure who was assassinated in his bathtub. Jaques-Louis David painted this as an ode to him — they were dear friends. You can see the words "À MARAT" inscribed on the crate next to his bathtub. 

Jaques Louis David's the death of marat à marat


It's so different than any of David's other paintings — which are so exacting, exciting and thrilling — that this one stands alone. It's so calm. Marat just looks like he's sleeping.

It wasn't until more recently that I realized how relevant Marat's story is to the turbulent and censorious world we live in now. He was a firebrand who threw his weight around via his newspaper, "L'Ami du peuple," to get people... canceled shall we say. Eventually, that came back to bite him when a young woman named Charlotte Corday had enough of his tirades and stabbed him in his bathtub. When you hear her tell it, she makes it sound rather justified.

I told the full story here this week as part of a four-part series on Marat. It's part of a bigger series on witch hunts throughout history and what we can learn from them — I encourage you to subscribe, so you can read all of them!

Some of these will be behind a paywall, but since you found me via my personal blog, here's a discount if you want to read the whole series.