The Death of Socrates

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David

The Death of Socrates by Jacques Louis David was produced in 1787 and is considered to be one of the famous artworks of Neo Classicism movement. The work can be viewed now at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Medium: Oil Painting 

Subject(s): brave, death


The Death of Socrates is an oil painting produced in 1787 by French painter Jacques Louis David.

The painting focuses on the classical subject. The dimensions of the picture were 129.5 cm × 196.2 cm (51.0 in × 77.2 in).

The Death of Socrates as told by Plato in his Phaedo was the story of the execution of Socrates. In this story, Socrates was sentenced to death who was convicted for corrupting the youth of Athens and introducing strange gods to the city. He had to end his life by drinking poison hemlock. Socrates uses his death sentence as a final lesson for the youth of Athens and faces it calmly rather than fleeing away when the opportunity arises. The Phaedo was also Plato’s fourth which depicts the death of Socrates and his last dialogue to detail Socrates final days. It is also more detailed in Euthyphro, Apology, and Crito.

In this painting, an old man in a white robe sits upright on a bed. His right hand was extended over a cup and the other left hand gesturing in the air. He was surrounded by several other men of varying ages which of most showing emotional distress on the death of Socrates, unlike the stoic old man. The young man handing him the cup from his right-hand looks the other way with his face in mourning state and his free left hand touching his eyes.

Another young man sitting on a slab clutches the thigh of the old man. An elderly man sits at the end of the bed on the far left of the painting and he was slumped over and looking in his lap. To the left of the painting, other men are shown through an arch set in the background wall. There was another painting painted by the Italian artist Giambettino Cignaroli depicting the same event but it showed Socrates already dead and surrounded by his anguished followers.


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