July 13, 1793: Jean-Paul Marat is killed in his bathtub.

Marat was a leading figure of the French Revolution, and one of the most extreme; his radical writings attacked figures and groups he saw as “enemies of the people”, and he once chided his fellow citizens for not using enough force and violence against these enemies, writing that “five or six hundred heads would have guaranteed your freedom and happiness. In early 1793, Marat and many of the Jacobins launched a bitter campaign against the Girondists, a loose faction of moderates who controlled the National Convention. Through their efforts, the Girondists were expelled from the Convention, then proscribed, and finally guillotined in the one of the opening acts of the Reign of Terror.

Meanwhile, Marat retired to his home, where he continued to work. He suffered from a debilitating skin disease (now believed to be a case of Dermatitis herpetiformis), forcing him to spend much of his time soaking in a medicinal bath. On July 13, he was visited by a young woman named Charlotte Corday,who claimed to have vital information about escaped Girondins, which she offered to share with him. Ignoring the protests of his wife, Marat allowed her to speak with him, taking down a list of potential enemies and suspects. When Corday finished, she drew out a kitchen knife from her corset and stabbed Marat to death. His last words were to his wife: "Aidez-moi, ma chère amie!"

As it turned out, the young Corday was a Girondin sympathizer, and fearful of the violent excesses of the Revolution - which Marat seemed to embody. At her trial - which ended in her execution, Corday claimed that she “killed one man to save 100,000”. Unfortunately, Marat’s assassination only incited extremists further, and he was posthumously regarded as a martyr of the Revolution. His assassination was further immortalized in Jacques Louis-David’s highly idealized The Death of Maratthough a later painting of the same subject matter, as depicted by Paul Jacques Aimé Baudry, casts Corday in a more heroic light.

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    This painting is on display at the NGV’s Napoleon exhibition.
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