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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The Oath of the Horatii

David

1785

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The Oath of the Horatii is considered one of the finest examples of Neoclassical painting - an influential European art movement of the 18th century.

The painting represents a famous myth surrounding the foundation of Rome, when the city was at war with its neighbour, Alba Longa.

To end the war, each city sent 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 or die trying.

The painting is famous for its composition.

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

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

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

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