The death of Socrates - Jacques-Louis David. 129.5x196.2
A prominent representative of French classicism, Jacques-Louis David often chose for his paintings scenes from ancient history, which became close to him after his stay in Italy.
In this picture, Socrates, ready to drink a cup of poison by the verdict of the court, addresses the students with farewell words. The philosopher raised his hand, and held out the other towards the bowl. His gesture, when a hand is about to touch a vessel with a deadly drink, but still does not touch it, hanging in the air, is key because it gives the impression of a stopped time. As a result, no matter how the followers of Socrates suffer, death is defeated, because the teacher himself forgot about it, carried away by what he tells his followers and leaves behind.
The theme of the immortality of the human spirit is emphasized by the grandeur of the depicted people, expressed in their movements and faces, restrained by the monochrome color of the canvas and the whole composition: the arrangement of the characters along the front plane of the picture resembles a frieze, which gives solemnity to the whole scene. The engraving artist John Boydel enthusiastically wrote to the English portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds that David's work “is the greatest achievement in art after the Sistine Chapel of Michelangelo and Stanz Raphael ... This work would have done honor to Athens during the time of Pericles.”
David decided to write this painting when the revolution in France was already close. The aim of his work was to strengthen the spirit of fellow citizens by an example of Socratic resilience.