The Death Of Socrates

Essay add: 30-09-2015, 18:40   /   Views: 401
The Death Of Socrates

In contemporary with the Age of Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason in France, neoclassical painters used famous works of literature as a source of inspiration for their paintings. The Death Of Socrates (1787; Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 196.2 cm or 51 x 77 1/4 in) by Jacques Louis David, is a perfect example of a neoclassical painter using a famous work of literarue, in this case Plato’s Phaedo, as his source of inspiration. Plato’s marvelous work, however, was not completely captured in David’s this painting, instead David looking through “Roman lenses” chose to focus more on the famous philosopher’s immortality.

In the painting The Death of Socrates, the painter Jacques Louis David, takes a scene from Plato’s Phaedo and paints it from a Roman perspective. For example the setting of the scene takes place in a chamber that has Roman arches on the windows and an arch in the hallway. In addition there is also a Roman style lamp found behind Socrates. Other than the Roman perspective portrayed by David there is also a distribution of light and dark accents in this masterwork that aids in distinguishing the significance and “divinity” of Socrates. First of all, the light coming from the windows in the background and the lamp in the background are not the main source of light in this scene. However, the origin of the primary source of light that is emphasizing on Socrates and then on his disciples is unknown.

In David’s painting the light that shines on Socrates is brighter than all of the other light sources. This contrast in lighting helps emphasize Socrates’ “godliness”. In addition to the lighting contrast, Socrates “godliness” is also reflected on way his body has been painted. David painted Socrates with an ideally proportioned and athletic body in his painting so that he can depict Socrates as perfect man or a god like man. In addition Socrates is seen as a father like figure with great amount of wisdom because a beard is painted on his face. David summed up all of Socrates’ beliefs by painting physical emotions on Socrates.

Socrates movements and gesture demonstrates how he sacrifices himself, like a Greek god would, rather than betray his principles. David painted Socrates pointing his finger upward and higher than anyone in this painting to symbolize that his philosophical teachings have no end. In addition to painting Socrates with his a notion, David painted Socrates without anything supporting his back. A Socrates without any back support aids in showing the viewer that Socrates is strong and free to move about. The shackles in the floor also help illustrate a sense of freedom, however, this freedom is of his spirit being freed from this material world. This painting is not only projecting a martyrdom but it is also a clarion call to the viewer for nobility and self-control even in the face of death.

Socrates is perceived to be very calm and at peace, as he discusses the immortality of the soul with his disciples. Even though Socrates is in his deathbed, he is still teaching, philosophizing, and thanking the God of Health, Asclepius, for the hemlock brew, which, by the way, will insure a peaceful death. His last words are "a cock for Asclepius!” Which symbolizes that he is sacrificing himself to that god just like the cock will sacrificed. His students on the other hand are in grief and seem to be taking his execution worse than Socrates. Socrates had his wife and family removed had to be removed from the chamber where he was to drink the poison because the might get too emotional and his last request was to die in “omened silence”. Some of the story told in the Phaedo is seen the scene portrayed in David’s painting

Both David’s neoclassical painting and Plato’s literary work depicts the closing moments of the life of Socrates. This is when he is condemned to death by hemlock by the Athenian government for his teaching methods, which aroused skepticism and impiety in his students. Although David’s painting was an illustration of Plato’s Phaedo, the scene in the painting was slightly different because was painted through a Roman point of view.

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