La mort de Socrate (after 1787)

David, Jacques-Louis (1748-1825) & Studio

La mort de Socrate (The Death of Socrates)
after 1787
Oil on canvas, 133 x 196 cm
Princeton University Art MuseumPrinceton

David depicts Socrates about to drink hemlock rather than endure exile after being convicted by the Athenian government of subverting the local youth with his teachings. Disciples surround their principled friend, bidding him an emotional farewell. The theme was a potent one in the France of 1787, where Socrates was a hero to those seeking political and economic reforms. Exhibited at the Salon of 1787, the signed version of The Death of Socrates (Metropolitan Museum of Art) was an immediate success. This rough canvas appears to be a copy, possibly executed by David and his students as a teaching tool. The left section is nearly complete; on the right, paint is peeled back to reveal layers of unresolved underpainting. This factor makes firm identification difficult. It has been tantalizingly argued that the least finished portions are by David himself, an inversion of the normal workshop practice in which students prepared the foundation layers before the master applied his brush. (PUAM)


David, Jacques-Louis (1748-1825)
La mort de Socrate
Metropolitan Museum of ArtNew York



See also:

• Socrates (469 BC-399 BC)