Saint or sinner? The Death of Marat (1754) by Jacques-Louis David. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Getty Images
For the painter Jacques-Louis David, who actively supported and participated in the most radical acts of the French Revolution, the death of one of its most eloquent enthusiasts, Marat, was an unforgivable murder.
In fact, Marat was knee-deep in violence.
He passionately advocated executing aristocrats and moderates to save the Revolution from supposed enemies.
His assassin, Charlotte Corday (above), saw herself as a legitimate avenger.
David’s painting crushes such ambiguities with one of art’s great images of secular martyrdom.
In painting the horror of the crime scene, he turns Marat into a revolutionary saint.