The Death of Socrates

Artist: Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels)

Date: 1787

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 51 x 77 1/4 in. (129.5 x 196.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Collection, Wolfe Fund, 1931

Accession Number: 31.45

Description

Accused by the Athenian government of denying the gods and corrupting the young through his teachings, Socrates (469–399 B.C.) was offered the choice of renouncing his beliefs or dying by drinking a cup of hemlock. David shows him prepared to die and discoursing on the immortality of the soul with his grief-stricken disciples.

Painted in 1787 the picture, with its stoic theme, is perhaps David's most perfect Neoclassical statement. The printmaker and publisher John Boydell wrote to Sir Joshua Reynolds that it was "the greatest effort of art since the Sistine Chapel and the stanze of Raphael."

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