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mheu, Historical Museum of the Urban Environment

Marat assassinated! July 13, 1793, 8 o'clock in the evening

Jean-Joseph Weerts

Marat assassinated! July 13, 1793, 8 o'clock in the evening - Jean-Joseph Weerts

oil on canvas
Musée La Piscine, Roubaix
© Musée La Piscine, Roubaix

View this work in the exhibition Bathing

The work

This patriotically-inspired Assassination of Marat, painted in 1880, presents a revised version of historical events, with Charlotte Corday portrayed as a dangerous terrorist execrated by the good people. No tribute to David here. Charlotte Corday is still holding the bloody knife and, with complete disregard for history, a horde of hysterical revolutionaries burst into the room to arrest her. The painting most resembles a modern-day musical or, in those days, an opéra comique. There is nonetheless a sentimentality, a grandiloquence and a kitsch profusion of color that are the trademarks of this respectable craftsman.

The artist

Jean-Joseph Weerts was born in Roubaix in 1846 to Belgian immigrant parents who had moved to northern France to work in the textile industry. His father, an excellent draughtsman, gave him lessons, later sending him to the Academy in Roubaix. The young Jean-Joseph was gifted and won a scholarship to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he joined the studio of Cabanel. This marked the beginning of a perfect academic career involving patriotic and edifying historical painting, portraits of famous people and religious painting. He became one of the most prominent artists of the Third Republic, a member of the Conseil Supérieur des Beaux-Arts and Commander of the Légion d'Honneur. In 1924, he established the Weerts painting prize and in 1927, the year of his death, he opened his own museum in Roubaix.