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The Oath of the Horatii

Jacques Louis David French

Not on view

From the time he received the royal commission in 1781 to the display of The Oath of the Horatii (Musée du Louvre, Paris) at the Salon of 1785, David made numerous studies, fine-tuning every detail of the painting that would cement his reputation as leader of the French school.

After considering different moments of the legend, he ended up devising a scene that does not figure in any of the literary sources that he might have consulted: the three Horatii brothers swearing an oath to their father before going to battle the Curiatii.

In this compositional study, we can see David’s early focus on the contrast between the rigid patriotism of the men and the swooning dread of the women.

The Oath of the Horatii, Jacques Louis David (French, Paris 1748–1825 Brussels), Pen and black ink, brush and gray wash, heightened with white, over
black chalk

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