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The Oath of Horatii

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Sa'diyah Le'tang

on 12 March 2014

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Transcript of The Oath of Horatii

The Elements Used
There are many elements used to emphasize the subliminal message in this painting. First of all let's look at the painting as a whole.
The Oath of Horatii depicts an ancient Roman tale of the three Horatii brothers swearing on their swords that they shall defeat their opponents (the Curiatii) or die trying. The swords are being held in front of them by their father. The women on the far right appear grief stricken and sorrowful. This is because they are all related to the Horatii or the Curiatii by marriage or blood and the women know that no matter who wins there will be a death in the family.
Covert Meaning
The true meaning behind the painting was to encourage the republican values. The men in the artwork are wearing very Roman styled armor. This is important because Rome was very pro-republican. They display nobility and patriotism for their country. King Louis XVI made David paint this which is ironic since David incorporated all these anti-monarchist elements. Interestingly enough the French Revolution took place eight years later (1892) and this painting became one of the dominant artworks of that time. David painted this as a way to promote people to live a simpler life. To concentrate on having moral righteousness rather than material possessions. In the artwork, other than the men's helmets, everything was relatively simple. The clothes and and their surroundings were bare. In this artwork David promoted the idea that enduring suffering for the better of others was sign of true heroism and selflessness.
Something Like This Today...
The Oath of Horatii-1784
was painting by Jacques-Louis David , French artist

The mediums used are oil on canvas
Size 326 cm × 420 cm (128 in × 170 in)
Its is currently now in the Louvre, Paris
Literal Story
The movement is Neoclassical which is a style of art that resembles classical Roman art.
The symbols of strength and patriotism are shown by the three brothers strong, firm body language and their outstretched arms. Their arms are also in a salute position. The brothers have very vividly coloured clothes whilst the women (who look unhappy about the whole situation) have dull colours on their clothes. It adds to the idea that patriotism is better than worrying about yourself or a few others. The swords that swearing their loyalty too are a dominant figure in the painting. The geometrical patterns of the painting create lines which point towards the swords. The background is somewhat un-emphasized bringing to the front the foreground and the figures in it. David leaves no visible techniques. i.e. the brushstrokes are unclear. This is to ensure the audience is not distracted and focuses on the painting. Overall the painting has a dull use of colour. This is another technique to ensure the viewers take note of the story behind the painting and not just the art.
As was mentioned in the slides before, Jaques-Louis David brought the figures to the front by dulling the background. He achieved this by paying very little attention to the background and extensively detailing the figures in the foreground. He also contrasted the foreground and background using a technique called chiaroscuro which literally means light dark. Which involves using extreme light and dark colours right next to each other.
David made use of virtual or implied lines, An example of this would be the brothers, They have a strong triangular shape. A triangle is literally one of the strongest shapes and is a reference to the strength and power of the brothers. These implied lines all draw your attention to the swords. This is contrasted by the three women. They create wavy lines and are less dominating. Their facial expressions are in contrast to that of the stoic ones on three brothers faces. Even the women's clothes are more silky and flow more to emphasize their lack of rigidity. The men's strong upright positions mirror the columns behind while the womens curved postions mirror the arches that are held up by the coloumns.
There is a balance seen throughout the painting using the number three. The three brothers, the three women and the three swords.
Davids fine detailing of the the three brothers and the father also give way to the idea that these men are the symbols of the perfect men. Noble, brave, loyal and determined. This is also portrayed by their flawless emasculate bodies. Both father and sons are depicted to be strong both physically and in their sense nationalism. This subconsciously embeds the idea that this is what it means to be strong and honourable; to fight for your country. This also encourages the idea that men (i.e. the fighters)are the "pillars" of strength and that women (i.e. the people against the fighting) are weak. It glorifies nationalism and provokes men to enlist as most of them want to be seen with the same amount of admiration that's prompted for the Horatii brothers in this painting. As one cannot help but see them as overwhelming figures of justice and courage in this scene.
Basically The Oath of Horatii appeared to the public as an innocent portrayal of a legendary scene that supposedly contributed to laying the foundation of Rome. The reality is that the artwork was just a means to instill a sense of patriotism into the nation. This is merely one example of the many times art has been used to subliminally introduce or enforce an idea into the minds of the public. This technique of using art to convey a message without the viewer actually knowing has been used all over the world for hundreds of years including today. An easy example would be during election time. Politicians will have pictures of themselves posted all around the country showing their competence and power. They are showed as people with great leadership qualities and people are extremely influenced by these images. Another example would be the hundreds of thousands of images women are fed about what the "perfect body" looks like. These images have huge impacts on the way people look at their body and how they think.
Jacques-Louise David wanted to paint something new and fresh to make an impression on the public. He wanted to break away from the Rococo style and focus on simpler subject topics. He was not interested in the typical mythological or love themed paintings that were so popular at that time. Neoclassical art focuses less on the extravagance of people and objects. There are more messages and moral stories withing the art.
His smiling face suggest friendliness. The picture shows the American flag behind him. A power symbol to show his patriotism.

Women that are healthy simply do not look like this. Millions of people are indoctrinated into believing that this is the perfect body. But the truth is there is no "perfect body". Which just shows you how powerful images can be.
Before I begin, I know this is way too much information. But I'm confident I'll be able to reduce the content in the exam. :)
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