In The Oath of the Horatii, Jacques-Louis David used a clean and simple style, instead of following the intricate aristocratic style of Rococo art, thereby marking the beginning of Neo-classical art. In the painting, David portrayed a scene where the Horatii of Rome brothers are swearing their loyalty to their country in front of their father, before going to a battle with the Curatii brothers of Alba. The people of Rome and Alba have chosen those two families to stop the continued warfare between the two countries. However, the two families are tied by marriage: Sabrina is the sister of the Curatii but also the wife of the oldest Horatii, while Camilla is sister of the Horatii and betrothed to one of the Curatii (“The Oath of the Horatii”).
Because of the complicated connection between the two families, the women in the painting seem to be in great despair. While the men are determined to be heroes and bring glory to their country, the women are grieving over the safety of their loved ones. The young women at the far right of the painting are heartbroken, because their lovers are going to be killed, or at least significantly wounded, by their brother-in-laws. The mother of the Horatii, in the shadow next to the young women, is extremely worried about her sons, but also has to comfort her innocent infants. The young children, caressed by their mother, do not seem to fully understand what is going on, but they are still concerned about the lives of their older brothers. The women and children seem extremely vulnerable and emotional when compared to the men: the firm and muscular bodies of the men are standing upright in the geometrical room filled with harsh, straight lines, while the women are either sitting or crouching on the floor, looking almost “melted.” With that obvious contrast, David showed his viewers “the role of women in wars”: to be devastated by the dangers their men face.
“The Oath of the Horatii.” Aaron Art Prints. 27 April 2011. <http://www.aaronartprints.org/david-theoathofthehoratii.php>.
“The Oath of the Horatii.” Louvre. 27 April 2011. <http://www.louvre.fr/llv/oeuvres/detail_notice_popup.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225718&CURRENT_LLV_NOTICE%3C%3Ecnt_id=10134198673225718&FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=9852723696500815&bmLocale=en>.