The Death of Socrates

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The Death of Socrates

“The Death of Socrates” was painted by a French painter . His name was Jacques Louis David. The painting represents the scene of the death of Greek philosopher Socrates. He was condemned to die by drinking hemlock for the expression of his ideas against those of Athens' and corrupting the minds of the youth. The painting also depicts both Plato and Crito, with the former sitting at the edge of the bed and the latter clutching the knee of Socrates. Socrates had the choice to go into exile and , hence, give up his philosophic vocation or be sentenced to death by drinking hemlock. Socrates chose death. In this painting, someone hands a confident Socrates the goblet of hemlock. Socrates' hand pointing to the heavens indicating his defiance of the gods and fearless attitude to his death.

The setting and the distinction between light and dark that David uses help to reinforce the contrasts in his subject matter ; both physically as represented on canvas, and philosophically from within the story he is telling. A broad tonal range, with bright light and skin tones move through duller brownish hued skin and dark recesses and corners shown in the room itself. Philosophically the contrasts are of good and evil, right and wrong, freedom and constraint – all of which speak of a moral and immoral use of authority in this situation. Socrates is placed in the centre of the composition, one hand reaching skyward and the other reaching out for the hemlock held by a bearer whose face we cannot see. Socrates is being judged and sentenced by a nameless form rather than by an individual. His disciples are surrounding him, in particular the distressed seeming Plato who sits at the foot of the couch, unable to turn and face his mentor.

The setting itself is of Roman design, which we can see by the nature of the architecture and fittings in the room. David has deliberately taken his narrative and placed it in a time of his choosing, in order...
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