Plague Art, to Rivet, Horrify, or Heal

Napoleon Bonaparte Visiting the Victims of the Plague at Jaffa, 11 March 1799, 1804, by Antoine Jean Gros. Oil on canvas. (© RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY. Photo: Franck Raux, Musée du Louvre)
Napoléon visits plague victims (and does not social distance), skeletons dance, an archangel intervenes.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I  read a story in the New York Times by Paul Theroux on the national lockdown, the one that’s crashed the economy and thrown more than 26 million Americans out of work. “This peculiarity we are now experiencing,” he wrote, “the nearest thing to a world war . . . is the essence of tragedy and an occasion for license or retribution.”

Is this “the nearest thing to a world war?” We can’t time travel to London during the Blitz, and don’t we think life in the trenches at the Somme was by a magnitude or two worse than life during


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