Suicide/Moral Reasoning

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An Act of Despair[edit]

Shame[edit]

Marble statue of Lucretia committing suicide after her rape, by 18th century French sculptor Philippe Bertrand. In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Suicide of Ajax Wilhelm Bauer (1600 - 1642).

Lost Love[edit]

Romeo and Juliet, Juliet wake up in the grave. Original painting by J. Northcode, R.A., engraved by P. Simon .
Illustration du Petit Journal (10 octobre 1891) Suicide du général Georges Boulanger devant le tombe de sa maitresse au cimtière d'Ixelles.

Political Statement[edit]

Caton d'Utique lisant le Phédon avant de se donner la mort (Cato of Utica reading the Phedo before comitting suicide). Marble, 1840. The work was started by Romand in 1832 and carried on by Rude after Romand's death in 1835.

Suicide is often used as a show of ultimate protestation against political movements, decisions or to cause society to reexamine the morals or goals of political figures. Such actions were more common in the higher strata of society in ancient times as only those would make a public statement. One of the most famous events of this nature was the suicide of Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 BC, Rome – April 46 BC, Utica), commonly known as Cato the Younger (Cato Minor), a statesman in the late Roman Republic. Cato had fought Caesar, a de facto dictator, on the side of Pompey, that refused to align to the new power. After a reversal, where Caesar defeated most of the supporters of Pompey, Cato escaped to the province of Africa, to Utica, without conceding defeat, and was pursued by Caesar.

In Utica, after a major battle, where outnumbered Caesarian legions defeated the opposing army. He committed suicide in an attempt to deny any political gain of being captured, or even to permit Caesar the opportunity to grant him a pardon.

According to Plutarch surviving writings, in April 46 BC Cato botched an attempt to kill himself, due to an injured hand. Plutarch wrote

"Cato did not immediately die of the wound; but struggling, fell off the bed, and throwing down a little mathematical table that stood by, made such a noise that the servants, hearing it, cried out. And immediately his son and all his friends came into the chamber, where, seeing him lie weltering in his own blood, great part of his bowels out of his body, but himself still alive and able to look at them, they all stood in horror. The physician went to him, and would have put in his bowels, which were not pierced, and sewed up the wound; but Cato, recovering himself, and understanding the intention, thrust away the physician, plucked out his own bowels, and tearing open the wound, immediately expired."

Suicíde of Cato of Utica,(XVII). Oil over canvas, 84 x 112 cm. Private collection, São Paulo, Brasil. Author Giambattista Langetti (1635-1676).


Memorial sculpture for Erich Ohser 1909-1944 who committed suicide in prison awaiting trial. He was a cartoonist and artist famous for his Vater und Sohn characters and his critical political cartoons. He worked under the name of e.o.plauen. The sculpture is outside the museum dedicated to his work at Bahnhofstr. 36, Plauen in Saxony.


In Prevention of Worse Faith (Reduction of Damages)[edit]

Retreat and suicide of Dacians (Scene CXL); Dacian chieftains before Trajan (Scene CXLI),
Title: Arrestation et tentative de suicide de Robespierre le 17 juillet 1794 *Description: estampe *Artist: anonyme *Year: 1796