Brawlin' Broads: Charlotte Corday

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Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry, Charlotte Corday, 1860
Brawlin' Broads
By BLAIR HUXMAN

Baudry memorializes Charlotte Corday's little-known role in the French Revolution in this 1860 work. Corday hides in the corner after murdering radical political activist Jean-Paul Marat. The scene became iconic in France and artists have made countless renditions. Corday opposed Marat's role during the Reign of Terror and tragic September Massacres where thousands of prisoners were preemptively executed in fear of uprising. Corday initially planned on killing Marat in front of the National French Convention, but Marat's health had deteriorated from a skin condition. She went to his house feigning insight on a planned uprising, found him in his bath where he spent most of his time, and plunged a knife into his heart. For days after his murder, Corday was executed by guillotine. Corday quickly became an iconic figure of the revolution and empowered women across France.

This work was Baudry's only attempt at a historical painting as he found fame primarily in portraits and murals. Corday calmy stares across the room after killing Marat. Her striped dress falls gently and provides elegance to a chaotic room. Corday stares pensively across the room, knowing she will be found guilty of murder and likely executed, but she does not show her fear. The soft light illuminating from the window highlights Corday as the subject of the work as the eye sees Marat in the shadows secondly. His hand still grasps the corner of the tub and his face grimaces in pain, giving live and emotion to a corpse. Behind Corday, one sees a map of France on the wall which helps provide the viewer with the necessary historical context. Corday is an all-too-often forgotten heroine of the revolution who sacrificed her life to save thousands, and Baudry captures the emotion and energy in Marat's room directly after his murder with ease and poise.

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