OIL PAINTING: The Oath of the Horatii, 1784
The Oath of the Horatii by David occupies an extremely important place in the body of David's work and in the history of French painting. It was commissioned by the Administrator of Royal Residences in 1784 and exhibited at the 1785 Salon under the title The Oath of the Horatii, between their Father's Hands. The story was taken from Titus-Livy.
David succeeded in ennobling these passions and transforming these virtues into something sublime. Corneille and Poussin had already used this same subject and treated it as a sentimental and aristocratic game. Unlike these, David decided to treat the beginning, rather than the denouement of the action in The Oath of the Horatii , seeing that initial moment as being charged with greater intensity and imbued with more grandeur. And, it was he who chose the idea of the oath (it is not mentioned in the historical accounts), transforming the event into a solemn act that bound the wills of different individuals in a single, creative gesture. He was not the first painter to do so, but certainly the first to do it in such a stirring manner with The Oath of the Horatii.