Clark, Painting in the Year Two (as note 3), p. 22.


Ibid., p. 31.


Finally, it remains to ask whether «the people’s entry onto the stage of power» and the immanence of sovereignty was able to discard the moment of transcendence from political thinking as reflected in Marat’s portrait? Edward V. Gatacre and Laura Dru have pointed out that David’s painting of Marat was derived from a wax portraiture made by Madame Tussaud which showed the revolutionary’s body after his violent death - «presumably in effigy». [49] This would imply that the effigy of the dead Marat, a three-dimensional model of his body, would have served as a model for a painting which problematises the ambiguity of the universal and particular dimension of the sovereign’s body.

The effigy of Marat and the adoration of his physique, still present in David’s painting, join in in the cult of Marat that likes to compare the revolutionary to Jesus Christ and the image of his dead body to the depiction of the Pietà. [50] Clark has located this veneration for Marat «at the intersection between short-term political contingency and long-term disenchantment of the world.» [51] The comparison between the revolutionary Marat and Jesus Christ indicates a compensation for «the loss of the sacred», contributing to a political-theological discourse in which a transcendent moment shines through the secular fabric of the French Revolution. David’s painting thus shows the myth of society’s democratic self-foundation as well as the concept of popular sovereignty still bearing the marks of transcendence which early modern thought was so determined to remove from the political stage.



Concluding the above reflections about the relationship between the model and the image of sovereignty in modern political thought, one has to be aware of the close similarities between both terms and withstand the temptation to treat them as identical. By example of the portraits of King Louis XIV, I have shown that the portrait of the king, who himself was considered a model of God, functioned as a substitute of his physical body. In this sense, the portrait of the king also functioned as an instantiation of God presenting the abstract concept of divine power by the king’s body and its pictorial representations. Therefore the king has to be understood as inseparable from his own image; he displayed his power as a model of sovereignty which derived its legitimacy in a place beyond time and space. The portrait of the king interpreted as model of divine sovereignty has a strong mimetic element suggesting an imitative representation of transcendent authority. The portrait of the king denies any difference between what is represented and its form of representation, signifier and signified, thus covering up the locus of the political.

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