Oath of Horatti

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Symbol, Theme and Depiction in Jacques-Luis David’s The Oath of the Horatii There are many paintings that stand out in the canon of art and art history. Jacques-Luis David’s neoclassical painting, The Oath of the Horatii, is one such painting. It is many things: a comment of family versus state, a merging of cultures and a political statement. It is important to study because of its many different comments and the true depth of its message about war, family, violence and culture. It is a painting that marks David’s opinion on the time that he painted it- the late 1700’s-through using an old Roman myth. Truly, The Oath of the Horatii is a great painting that should be appreciated for its in-depth themes and commitment to progress. The painting itself is from a myth about a difficult moral dilemma. It is the depiction of three brothers from a Roman family, The Horatii, agree to end an ongoing war between Rome and Alba Longa. They agree to fight three brothers from Alba Longa, the Curiatti. The three brothers are shown in the left hand corner taking swords from their father, eager to die for the honor of their great home. In the right hand corner and not wholly depicted in the original myth are the weeping wives of the brothers, who are saddened by their fate of harm, at least, and at worst death. There is allusion that one of the wives is a sister actually betrothed to one of the Curatti, entangling the state and family in a way that seems irreconcilable. The idea of conflict of the role of the father is apparent in many interpretations of The Oath of the Horatii. The status of the father or fatherhood is particularly ambiguous or unclear, states Lynn Avery Hunt in David’s Oath of the Horatii. The fathers in this painting and another of the period, also by Luis-Luis David, Lictor’s Returning the Brutus to the Bodies of His sons. Hunt
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