The Death of Socrates

"The hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways; I to die, and you to live. Which is better? Only God knows."

This piece is a reimagining of the famous Neoclassical masterpiece 'The Death of Socrates' by Jacques-Louis David, painted in 1787. The subject is the execution of Socrates, as recounted by Plato in his work, Phaedo. David's work remains one of the most famous portrayals of the philosopher ever created.
In Plato's story, Socrates had been tried by the jury of Athens and found guilty of introducing new gods and 'corrupting' the minds of the youth. Given the choice between exile or death, Socrates chose death by poison. David depicts the moment right before he takes up the poison cup from the executioner, speaking to his followers and friends gathered around him in a moment of despair.
A fascinating element is the figure of the old man sitting next to the bed on the left, which may be Plato himself who remembers the scene as he writes it on the scroll at the base of his seat. This also means that the entire depiction may only be his memory.
I've decided to cut out the long hallway and the other characters leaving the scene; I've chosen instead, to represent the hallway (which sits right above Plato's head as an aura) as a symbolical gateway to the Other Side. As Socrates speaks of death and what may exist beyond, I found it fitting to represent the concept itself within the gateway, while at the same time implying that this also may just be Plato's imagining. None of the characters look towards the light or the gateway. Most are either in despair or refusing to look ahead, while Socrates is the only character who acknowledges his death with courage and determination.
His philosophy in this moment is perfectly encapsulated in the quote:

"For the fear of death is indeed the pretense of wisdom, and not real wisdom, being a pretense of knowing the unknown; and no one knows whether death, which men in their fear apprehend to be the greatest evil, may not be the greatest good. Is not this ignorance of a disgraceful sort, the ignorance which is the conceit that a man knows what he does not know?"

February 8, 2022