French artist, Jacques-Louis David’s painting, “Oath of the Horatii,” is one of the most recognizable works of the nineteenth century. This painting is important in the history of French painting. “Oath of Horatii” was painted in Rome in the style of Neo-Classicism (Kumskova). The French artist oil on canvas painting demonstrates a dramatic portrayal of the Horatii brothers swearing their allegiance to the state as their father stands with swords held high for them to grasp.
This painting also depicts a scene about a dispute from a Roman legend about a dispute between two warning cities, Rome and Alba Longa, which stresses the importance of masculine self-sacrifice for one’s country and patriotism when the three Horatii brothers are about to go to war for their country (Wikipedia). The décor of this Neo classic painting is reduced to a more abstract order, which is architectural space: massive columns and equally massive arches opening out onto a majestic shadow (Wikipedia). The three archways are proportioned in size and space, which also corresponds into three groups. Instead of, Jacques-Louis David opening his painting out onto a landscape or an expansion of the sky, he closes it off to the outside (Kumskova). David’s choices of the architecture and lack of landscape helps make the piece of art more personal and historic.
The décor not only enhances the painting’s true value, but provides the viewer with a well blended array of colors. The choice of colors are limited, but well balanced. David’s color selection seems to consist of red, blue, brown, white, black, and flesh tones. The vibrant red of the cloak of Horatii draws the viewers to the center (Kumskova). The Horatii brothers clothing are of red, white, and blue as they prepare to patriotically fight for the glory of Rome (Wikipedia).
Yet, the women in the corner with a sullen mood have earth tone colors. In addition, the scene is closed off from the rest of the world by shadowy recesses among the columns. Throughout “Oath of Horatii,” the use of shadow helps add depth in the basic colors and give variations of hue. “The Oath of Horatii”s use of dull colors show the importance of the story behind the painting and also demonstrates the neoclassical art style, which employs the principles of designs.
The storyline of “Oath of the Horatii” is a landmark composition, symbolically and pictorially. The painting is set against a dark, muted classical background that emphasizes the true background and emotion of this masterpiece. The theme of the painting has a patriotic and neoclassical perspective. The atmosphere is softened by shades of green, brown, pink, and red, which are all very discreet. The light in the setting takes on a brick toned reflection, which encircles David’s figures with a mysterious halo as a result (Kumskova). Besides the storyline of the three Horatii brothers, viewers can see the side of the painting that show the women and children of the family mourning the sons’ departure, which intertwines with the dark toned colors of the painting.
David’s placement of figures and forms in the canvas act as a way to tell the story of this history’s painting , but most importantly offers more subtle hints to what happens next (Kumskova). David’s ‘The Oath of Horatii’ is one of the hallmark paintings of the neoclassical movement in which artists looked to antiques of Greece and Rome to inspire their generations like David (Wikipedia).
Kumskova, Marina. David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784: Analysis. N.
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2015. “Oath of the Horatii. ” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n. d. Web.
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