The Death of Socrates Painting, It is more than just a painting

This painting catches the eyes and captures the heart at first sight, so what is the secret?

"The Death of Socrates" painting is a typical example of the modern classical movement. It is painted by the French painter Jacques-Louis David in 1787. It addresses one of the most prominent historical events, which is the execution of Socrates by Greek Authorities in 399 B.C., accused of corrupting the minds of the youth and religion manipulation. The importance of this painting is that Socrates was given choices between being exiled or executed with poison. He preferred to die with his philosophy and principles than to escape. The painting depicts Socrates teaching the last lesson about the value of life and death, and that life is meaningless without freedom. He holds his views, sacrificing his life for them.  

This picture contains many symbols. In the middle, Sokrates appears in a white dress and physical strength, sitting in the center and pointing his thumb up, and he gives the last lesson in his life about life and death. He is bravely prepared to take the poison from the red-dressed man whose facial expressions express great sadness, as he is one of Sokrates' students. Sokrates' white dress refers to purity, goodness, and virtue, while the sommelier's dress refers to execution. The person who sits next to Sokrates and puts his hand on Sokrates'       

groin is Kreto, the oldest and most faithful Sokrates' student. 

It is worth mentioning that David's image shows Sokrates' body in physical strength, powerful muscles, with no wrinkles, which does not achieve commensurate with his age, as he was executed at 70. This is one of the modern classical style features to show the idealism of physical appearance. 

On the left, an old gray-haired man sits at the back of the bed turning his face from the scene. It is Plato, the writer who documents Sokrates' life, philosophy, and death in detail. 

Beneath the photo, there are paper, a toner box, and a writing pen, a metaphor for Vaido's book from which the painters got inspired. 

Here are many things that seem weird:

Plato did not exist at the moment Sokrates was executed. At that time Sokrates was not an old man, while he was 29 years old. Plato's sitting position was weird; he sat turning his back to the scene as he was isolated from the scene.  

Thus, analysts say that the picture is just Plato's memories and perspectives. This scene was written by Plato when he got older. That is where Jacques-Louis David's ingenuity stands out through conveying the idea with highly accurate depicting as the scene comes from Plato's head. And it seems like an old movie is played in Plato's head through which he watches past events. 

The whole point of this image is not documentation of Sokrates' death, but rather to glorify the main sense of the scene; hence, this image is drawn by a genius painter talking about a brilliant philosopher and political activist.

 This image is first shown in Paris Salon in 1787. Now it is exhibited in the Mtropolitan Museum of Art in New York, USA. 

It contains impressive details and hidden symbols, check the references below to discover more about this image. 


  • Areej Abo Hania, 3rd of Jul. 2021, Almahata journal.

Fares Ahmad, "The Death of Socrates Painting", YouTube channel, Azazel.

The death of Socrates: how to read a painting, You Tube Channel, nerdwriter1.