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18th Century Painting Consoles Grief After Roe’s Fall



By: Adam Zhang


Negative consequences are to be expected after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. People on social media have claimed to have experienced random period cramps, headaches, and nausea. Agreers with the court are quick to ridicule fierce responses, claiming that the Yeasayers are overreacting. Women are told that their physical pain is just something going on in their heads.


Kelsey Ables, in a perspective article, has turned to an 18th century painting to find solace in darker times. This 1789 painting by Jacques-Louis David, called “The Lictors Bringing Brutus the Bodies of His Sons”, depicts a Roman Consul named Brutus watching his men bring in the bodies of his two dead sons, whom he had killed for alleged treason. The painting was used as propaganda during the French Revolution. In it, there were grieving women in the light, and as the story goes, the women were the weaklings, letting feelings get the better of them, and Brutus, the hero.


There are much more details to the painting than what meets the eye. The bony, white toes of the corpses are visible. The setting makes the painting much sadder in some perspectives, as the officers carry the two sons into the shadows.


It turns out, looking at the details, there is more to the story. Brutus was thinking to himself, muscles tensed, as if he was trying to hold in his underlying pain. The servant carrying the body looks at the trio of women, as if trying to say he had done this many times before. The mother looks at the bodies in grief, restrained from the bodies by an invisible force. The youngest daughter fainted upon sight of the dead bodies.


All of this can be found by looking at the details. They reveal character’s emotions. Following this, if society could follow their emotions, more could feel obliged to do something when injustice arrives. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, it is best to stay in this mindset. More should embrace the human ability to feel emotion when it feels right, instead of when some say it is right. If this becomes the new standard, a second Roe v. Wade may never happen.

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