Sights and Sounds of David's Neoclassical Painting

Look, listen, and discover that David's 'The Oath of the Horatii' holds more than meets the eye

By Google Arts & Culture

The Oath of the Horatii (1786) by Jacques-Louis DavidThe Toledo Museum of Art

Detail 01 - Jacques-Louis David

A solemn and heroic scene. The three Horatii brothers swear to their father to fight till death for Rome, against the rivals the Curiatii. This last battle will decide the outcome of the bloody conflict between their homeland and the city of Albalonga.

Detail 02 - Jacques-Louis David

In profile as ancient bas-reliefs, the figures are set in two groups belonging to two separate worlds. 

Detail 03 - Jacques-Louis David

On the left we see the brothers’ martial move.
They embody a male and sculpted universe, full of patriotic fervor. 

Detail 04 - Jacques-Louis David

On the right are the sorrowful women. Their sorrow is well-founded: a complicated bond of love and kinship tie them both to the Horatii and Curiatii. No matter how it will end, they’re destined to suffer. They stoically resign themselves to this and find solace in one another.

Detail 05 - Jacques-Louis David

The psychological contrast between the two groups is highlighted by the softer shapes and the sinuous position of the feminine bodies, compared to the stiff verticals of the masculine bodies. The Horatii’s mother protectively embraces her grandchildren...

Detail 06 - Jacques-Louis David

...but the eldest wiggles out to look: for the good of the native land, he’s ready to accept the family tragedy. A sign full of neoclassical spirit, in its vision of art and history as examples to spread the civic and moral virtues of the time. 

Credits: Story

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