Essay The Death of Socrates

1232 Words Jun 1st, 2008 5 Pages
The Death of Socrates

Viewing the painting “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David, one can perceive many different subject matters, both literally and metaphorically. The obvious is seen within the setting of the painting. The clear illustration of where the event is happening provides the onlooker with a glimpse into a different time and era. Conversely, the artist has taken the liberty to hide deep meaning inside the work of art through less apparent means. Symbolism through art work has endured from early works to contemporized ones, here is no different. Taking the two aforementioned into consideration gives us a glimpse into both the symbolic and factual significance of the occasion.

What we can term as the ‘Roman’
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Given the body of a Greek god, Socrates seems far from frail and is bursting with strength and power. Furthermore, to give Socrates an air of wisdom, he was given a beard. The beard which is representative of knowledge and intelligence flows freely upon the great teacher as his time of execution approaches. While appearing to have the divinity of a god, Socrates is still painted with physical emotion. The duality of being godly and human at the same time may have been a recurring theme at the time this was painted.

Not only looking at the mere representation of the figure who is Socrates, but by examining how he is situated among others in the painting also uncovers meaning in of itself. Studying the way that Socrates’ body is situated you can see that the artist is trying to make a statement of nobility in self-sacrifice. The finger of Socrates is pointed upward and is in the highest position in the chamber. Much like a mountain commands the landscape, so does Socrates finger in a room full of disarray and uncertainty. This can also tells us that although ready to die and in his final hour, his teachings and beliefs will continue to live on. Although Socrates is on his deathbed he still continues to teach and philosophize.

Something else that should be noted is the posture of Socrates. His back is completely erect with no support. Everyone else in the picture…