Oath of Horatii


Oathof Horatii

Oathof Horatii

“Oathof Horatti” is 1785 oil on canvas painting by Jacques-Louis David.The historical artwork depicts three Horatii brothers salutingtowards three swords held by their father in readiness for battleagainst the Curatii. On the right side of the painting, there arethree women in despair. The women are united to both the Curatii andHoratii families through marriage, and are heartbroken for they willbear the greatest burden of the war. The neoclassic art mythologicalmasterpiece depicts patriotic values such as duty, stoicism, andself-sacrifice.

Jacques-Louismade use straight lines to create a sense of strength as depictedthrough the architecture and the men’s standing positions. The menare depicted in straight line similar to the building columns tohighlight their energetic bodies and strength. On the other hand, thewomen are curved, showing their weakness like the arches that must besupported by the columns. The straight lines converge at the focalpoint where the men clasp their hands

Colorplays a symbolic role in the painting. The artist used dull colors inthe background to emphasize the sad story behind the painting. Whilethe two brothers wear black and brown cloaks, the one closest to thecamera is adorned in colors resembling his father and one of thewomen, presuming that he will be the sole survivor of the battle. Thewomen are wearing earth color tones that depict the somber mood. Thecolumns and the background are engulfed in dark pallets and shadowsto further show the looming death and misery.

Textureof the muscles and the skin of the brothers symbolize how a personfar a person can go in defending his nation. David does not emphasizeon texture but the floors and the walls have a natural appearancetexture. The invisible brush strokes make the details more clear andprevents distractions from the theme of the painting. Space isenhanced using light, which emphasizes extension and makes alldetails visible. The background space is cut using columns andpillars, hence pushing the focal point of the painting to theforeground. The solid lines create visible shapes and structuraldetails that emphasize the symbolic meaning of the artwork. Strongcolumns, walls, floor, and men’s bodies assert the importance ofunity and strength when fighting for a similar course.

Iwas attracted to the painting because of its heroic grandeur and callfor civic virtues. I love the accentuated dramatic swearing of oathon the swords against the dark background. The artwork inspires theviewers to fight in unity for the welfare of the nation. It promotesservice to the nation over personal ambitions. The key figures in thepainting are in the foreground, like the Roman relief sculptures. Themasterpiece provides a lasting value to me through the actions of thebrothers who risked their lives for the benefit of the community.


Jacques-Louis,D. (1785). .