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The Death of Socrates

David, Jacques-Louis

Last Updated: Dec-30-1996
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas


Condemned to death, Socrates, strong, calm and at peace, discusses the immortality of the soul. Surrounded by Crito, his grieving friends and students, he is teaching, philosophizing, and in fact, thanking the God of Health, Asclepius, for the hemlock brew which will insure a peaceful death. His last words are "a cock for Asclepius!"

The wife of Socrates can be seen grieving alone outside the chamber, dismissed for her weakness. Plato (not present when Socrates died) is depicted as an old man seated at the end of the bed. The pompous "medical celebrity"--as Tolstoy might describe him, were he one of Ivan Ilyich's five consults (The Death of Ivan Ilyich, see this database)--is pontificating on his rounds about the pharmacological details of the medication.

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