14 Death of Marat by Aliprandi

Engraved by James Aliprandi, after Domenico Pellegrini (1759 – 1840)

The Death of John Paul Marat , 1794

Stipple engraving with hand-colouring

Published by Colnaghi & Co., No.132 Pall Mall, London 10th February 1794

Jean Paul Marat was the deputy of the Convention and publisher of the newspaper L’Ami du Peuple. During the Revolution he had denounced many of his fellow deputies, had called for a temporary dictatorship and advocated greater use of the guillotine in order for the Republic to survive. On July 13th 1793, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the fall of the Bastille, Charlotte Corday stabbed Marat in his bathtub. By July 22nd news of the assassination had already reached England and Corday became an instant celebrity. French and English artists portrayed the two individuals involved quite differently. In French depictions, Marat was portrayed as a martyr, a modern-day Brutus who helped slay the King. However, in England, and for counter-revolutionaries, Charlotte Corday became the modern-day Brutus, having assassinated a blood-thirsty despot.

This stipple engraving of Marat’s assassination had quite different intentions from the caricatures published during this period. Indeed its technique, which was more complex and took longer to produce than an etched caricature, together with its text in both English and French was aimed at a more sophisticated and educated class of consumers. The engraving was published some eight months after the murder and it is possible that while the news of Marat’s death had made it to England, details of how the assassination occurred may not have been included. The inaccuracy of Charlotte Corday stabbing Marat on a chaise longue rather than in the bath may have been intended simply to add to her heroic stature. The chaise longue, a tool of seduction, also intensifies the narrative of virtue and vice, and suggests that Corday is preserving her own and the country’s virtue. The bathtub may be just visible on the left, behind the heavy draped curtain.

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