Friday, September 5, 2014

The Death of Socrates

"All we are is dust in the wind..."

I've been in New York City for over a week, and yesterday I spent a few hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I've spent a lot of time there over the decades, and the place feels like being home.

I asked at the front desk where I could find the paintings of Jacques Louis David, I wanted to see the works of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres even more, but his name is so much harder to pronounce, so I said just David. I knew these works would be near each other.

I get instructions from a nice lady with a French accent, and I walk through the maze of galleries on a quest to the one I asked about. 

I see some beautiful stuff along the way, and then I enter a room and see the huge canvas of The Death of Socrates. I walk up to it, and what do I see but an owl!

There is a man on a stone seat with his hand on Socrates thigh. That seat has a owl chiseled into the seat, along side some greek text. (see detail at left) As far as I can tell, the text says something about Athens. This is referred to as an incised owl of Athens. Below this David's signature.

This painting is all about wisdom, as well as death. So the owl (the symbol for Athens) is doubly appropriate.

Plato is also in the painting, hunched over in a mournful pose at his philosopher pal's feet. He is credited with the ideas of the archetype, and this plays out deeply in my ongoing research about owls.


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2 comments:

Red Pill Junkie said...

Socrates said that the only wisdom is knowing that 'you' know nothing. Perhaps the painting is a symbolic representation of the Death of the Ego. A necessary step one must willingly take to attain true wisdom.

Dennis said...

Right on Red Pill, to reduce ourselves to no-thing. Dennis