“The Death of Socrates” – Extra-credit
The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David is a perfect example of a neoclassical painting. As a characteristic of this time, the author focuses on symmetry and on the characters’ faces to tell the story. Jacques Louis David uses a smooth texture in his composition and primary bright colors predominantly in the disciples’ robes. It is a secular piece of art that represents a historical moment, the death of Socrates, a Greek philosopher, known as one of the wisest people of all time. The story says that one Jury of Athenian citizens ordered Socrates to either renounce his beliefs, or be sentenced to death by drinking a poison. Socrates heroically rejected abandoning his life’s work and drank the poison. The author was able to draw this moment with objectivity, promoting very strong values and moral commitment which is one of the characteristics from that period. Jacques David uses in his work a lineal perspective technique, and also the triangle compositional device, where all the figures converge in a vanishing and focus point, the raised hand of Socrates. The use of the light and dark in this work give a sense of emotion and tension to the moment, adding theatrically to the composition, and making us feel as part of the audience. It really engages us. This painting gives a sense of calm, peace, sacrifice, and immortality, all this feelings present in his main character Socrates. Every detail in Socrates, his body, his straight position, his beard, and the light center on him gives a touch of wisdom and power to this character. It is also important to mention the influence of Greek and Roman culture on this piece. It is observed in the Roman arched windows and doors, and in the lamp located behind Socrates. This composition is full of contrast which gives an immediate realism. The first contrast is in the person of Socrates, one hand reaching the poison, and the other hand is pointing to the heaven with and immortality...
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