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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The Oath of the Horatii



The Oath of the Horatii is considered one of the finest examples of Neoclassical painting.

It represents an episode of the foundation of Rome, when the city was at war with its neighbour, Alba Longa.

To end the war, each city chose to send 3 brothers to fight it out - the Horatii against the Curiatii.

The painting represents the 3 Horatii brothers swearing to their father that they will defeat the Curiatii, and bring victory to their city, or die trying.

The painting is famous for its composition.

The number 3, a symbol of strength and stability, is everywhere : 3 brothers, 3 sisters, 3 arches, 3 groups, 3 parts of the scene…

The men's strength is represented by bold, straight lines.

The women's despair is represented by soft, curved lines.

Most lines guide our eyes towards the tips of the swords - the symbol of the oath.