Paintings and Psychoanalysis

Week 5

What did I do?

Found Inspirational Paintings

From the painting The Death of Marat (1793) by Jacques Louis David, I followed a trail on Google Images to find eight visual representations of the death of Marat and the fate of Corday. Many of the paintings were from the Romantic period, praising and mourning Marat as a hero. The paintings of Corday were either incriminating or incriminating and guilt-ridden. From these images, the attitude of the people can also be assumed. Some were appropriations of the David’s painting, such as Edvard Munch’s The Death of Marat II.

In several of the paintings, Charlotte Corday is depicted as fair-skinnned, dark-haired and a wearing blue-striped dress. In one she is even wearing a flowing white gown and is shrouded in light from the window, where she is often pictured retreating to. The symbolism of the blue and white gowns incites a sense of honesty and humility, blue is a calm, serene colour. This is highly inconsistent with the people’s rage as she was received by the public, however, it does show an empathetic understanding of the artists to have portrayed her as young, beautiful and innnocent – bringing a new idea to the revolution: sympathisers of her violence in the hopes of peace.

A painting by J. Weerts was used as the cover of Harold Behr’s book….

Read The French Revolution by Harold Behr

From reading psychiatrist Harold Behr’s The French Revolution, an analysis of the people and causes of the French Revolution, I learnt the following:

  • The Catholic-leaning education of the French people in the 1700s became less strict after Louis VI expelled its previous leaders. The Oratorians then became responsible for the nations education. These leaders turned a blind eye to the students reading Enlightened Literature.
    • Corday was one of these ‘students’.
  • The politics and legends of ancient Rome and Greece were held as important to the French people; the Roman Republic became their Holy City
    • Corday likely would have seen Brutus, the man who murdered Julius Ceaser in order to prevent the Roman Republic from descending into tyranny, as a role model. It is likely that this influenced her decision to murder Marat.
  • After the King’s attempt to flee the country, all parties that supported the idea of a constitutional monarchy were seen as betraying their nation, along with the king.
  • The Girondins lost favour with the people by believing in the possibility of a constitutional monarchy and by failing to address the people’s rage, caused by food shortages and continuing economic hardships.
  • The Girondins were defeated by the efforts of Robespierre, Marat and Danton (who had previously been a possible ally), as well as the [approx.] 80 000 armed Sans Culottes that had surrounded the Convention.
    • Of the 29 deputies that were arrested, only 21 were given a trial before all of them were Guillotined, including one who stabbed himself upon hearing his sentence.

I have not yet finished this chapter, so I will continue this research next week.

Some things that I can take from this are:

  • The importance placed on ancient Greek and Rome, which is similar to the Romantic period, and the parallels between Corday and Brutus.
    • Research Brutus
  •  This account of the Girondins will be helpful in terms of creating a pleading tone when Charlotte speaks to the Girondins.
    • The Girondins had believed that the National Convention was a place of free speech.
  • Behr included the way in which leftist and liberal politicians viewed the Girondins – as soft pathetic people, as opposed to “the embodiment of the true revolutionary spirit”.

Looked at sources of Primary Sources

An online archive contains translated copies of Marat’s letters and published articles.

As well as the images mentioned above.


H Behr. (2015). The French Revolution. Chapter 7. Sussex Aademic Press. Eastborne, England. (Accessed 02/03/2017).

Image: (Cover art: The Assassination of Marat by Jean-Joseph Weerts, 1880)



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