The Oath of the Horatii is made by French artist Jacques-Louis David in 1784 commissioned by King Louis XVI of France. It depicts a scene from a Roman legend in the period of the wars between Rome and Alba, when a dispute occurs between the two cities which must be settled by a fight by two groups of three champions from each. Therefore, three brothers from Horatii family agreed to combat with three brothers from the Curiatii family. The dramatic part is the fact that there are marital relations between these two families: one of the sisters of Curiatii is married to one of the Horatii, while one of the sisters of Horatii is betrothed to one of the Curiatii. Despite the ties, the Horatii brothers chose to sacrifice their lives and family interest for the good of Rome.
In the Ingres painting, the father is standing in the middle with two groups of people by each side of him, approaching symmetry in vision. The father of Horatii is holding three swords toward the three brothers, while they reach out their hands to show saluting and oath that they will fight for the country till death. On contrary, women on the right of the mythological painting show great sorrow on their faces, painful but helpless. The striking contrast between heart-breaking women and resolute men contribute to the tragic atmosphere of the artwork and patriotic spirit. The cylindrical building hall of Rome on the background and the dignified color increase the solemn and sacred atmosphere. Although this picture was made nearly five years before the French Revolution when paintings trended to prefer loyalty to the state rather than the family or church, the Oath of the Horatii has already reflected the aspiration of the period.
The Oath of the Horatti was exhibited at Salon in 1785, and it immediately became a huge success in the public and it’s regarded as one of the best known paintings of neoclassical style.