The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David

The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David


            The Oath of the Horatii is a painting by Jacques-Louis David, of the year 1784, in the neoclassical period. The Roman salute, with outstretched arm and palm down, is illustrated. The theme of the painting has a patriotic and extreme neoclassical perspective. It was inspired by a story of Livy. Two families of patricians, the Horatii and the Curiatii, to prevent a war between Rome and Alba, face them alone, three brothers of each family. The Horatii family wins thank to a survivor. Horatii sister mourns the dead of her beloved Curiatii, the son Horatii try to kill her but the father intervenes and saves her. The moment of the painting is when the brothers swear to his father their life for his city, Rome. The typical scenario is Roman, with classic dresses. Women represent pain. It is an oil on canvas.


Jacques-Louis David, born in Paris in 1748, is the main representative of  the Neoclassicism. He learned at the school of Boucher. About the neoclassical painting, neoclassical artist should not be limited solely to copy nature, but he must idealize it. There is inspiration in the models of Classical Antiquity. But due the paucity of preserved paintings, reduced almost to the Pompeian paintings, the artist is forced to be inspired by the sculptural models, statues and mainly reliefs. Consequently, the color value is lost, acquiring the priority the drawing and the well defined outlines.


        In conclusion, this painting is one of the best known of Jacques-Louis David and the neoclassical period. Certainly it reflects how the Greek and Roman paintings should have been at the time if they had known this technique and they had preserved.
This painting is in the National Museum of the Louvre in Paris, France.

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