Thu 10 Sep 2009
The cloth covering Marat’s bath tub in J-L David’s painting above… how does the color portray nature, luck, money and/or envy? The and/or is important as we must, and I think we do, hold out suspicion that green renders its power in some combination of these, not excluding the possibility of all at once. It’s a particular kind of power that connects our greed with our inclination to nurture and save things, including ourselves. Bear in mind, Dr. Marat apparently suffered from a kind of skin disease from which he sought the comfort of cold baths. This alone may invoke a necessary desire to set forth an updated version of prohibitions, to identify a set of New Sins, such as they are.
But speaking of necessary desire, consider the party missing from the David composition. Charlotte Corday, his murderer:
… struck by the Government’s exactions against the Girondins… Charlotte no longer believed that a Republic would be possible. She felt that Jean-Paul Marat, who daily demanded more and more heads, was in large part responsible for the misfortunes that the French people were undergoing. She resolved to rid the country of him.On July 9, 1793, Charlotte left her cousin’s apartment and took the mail coach for Paris. She stayed at the Hotel de Providence. There she wrote a long text titled Speech to the French who are Friends of Law and Peace, which explained the act she was about to commit.In Paris, on July 13, 1793, Charlotte requested an appointment with Marat at his home at 30, rue des Cordeliers. Marat agreed; by stating that she had “information to give him” and that he could even “render a great service to France”, she managed to obtain a meeting with him. The meeting took place in his bathroom; he was in his bathtub. It was there that Charlotte killed him, using a table knife “with a dark wooden handle and a silver ferrule, bought for a few sols at the Palais-Royal”.
She was guillotined four days later; within four months, David presented the painting of his friend, arguably his best work, to the National Convention. I’ll ask this again but… green as conceptual regression, can it disallow a muted nature in a way that permits our love for wealth? Is it, in a manner, a way for us to eat our cake – and have it, too?