Revisiting the ‘Angel of Assassination’

March 7, 2016 | Harriet MacMillan.

I wrote the above poem in 2012, but it had been in gestation for some time. I first encountered David’s painting The Death of Marat (1793) in 2006; I clearly recall finding the artwork, detailing the French revolutionary’s death in his bath tub at the hands of Charlotte Corday, at once stark and yet curiously sterile. I still retain a fascination with Marat and his murderer Charlotte Corday, described posthumously as ‘l’Ange de l’Assassinat’. I am not alone in my fascination; Corday’s brutal killing of Marat has inspired many artists and writers. But what do artistic acts of rewriting history teach us? Can they ever truly represent those figures who have inspired or horrified us?

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