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David: The Oath Of Horatii 1784. Art History Essay

910 words - 4 pages

David: The oath of Horatii 1784.
The art work: The oath of Horatii by Jacques-Louis David vividly depicts the ancient Rome story of the three Horatii brothers who vow to fight for their cause. This artwork represents and portrays a variety of symbols and meanings conveyed throughout the work. These symbols/motifs include include: colour, light and composition. These techniques used are very powerful in communicating the themes of self-sacrifice and heroism throughout the art work. These also contribute to the powerful meaning of this artwork and help depict the underlying theme of human suffering. I found this artwork very striking and communicates the contemporary ideas in which the painting depicts very incredibly.
The first technique that had a purposeful hidden meaning was the technique of colour. The colour palate throughout the majority of this piece is very neutral, David plays with a variety of shades of brown, yellow and greys. Then the dominant colour of red is introduced. This colour of red instantly catches our attention as it is intended to because red is the colour of passion and becomes the colour of the revolution. This red is incredibly significant to the overall meaning of the story; passion is constant throughout this piece, particularly the passion in which these three brothers have for their cause and for their state. These peeps of colour throughout the painting really purposely stand out, the red on the brothers, the woman and especially on the father are all intended to exaggerate the passion within the brother’s oath. This bold colour becomes more impactful because it soon becomes the colour to represent the revolution, represent change; this I believe is one of the main things that this artwork is trying to communicate to us.
David’s careful and clever use of light I found really sophisticated the meaning within this artwork. The lighting in this artwork is broadcast from the lower left corner and casts very shallow into the painting, leaving the background to fade into shadow. The lighting casts directly onto and accentuates the importance of the three brothers and their vow to their father. The use of lighting by highlighting the brothers also highlights the concepts/themes of both heroism and self-sacrifice which were very dominant themes in the ancient Roman times in which the artwork depicts. The use of shadow in this artwork was also used very strategically, the direct shadow that is cast by the three brothers and their father again depicts the strong element of heroism that is depicted by this work. Another use of shadow was displayed as the shadow falls directly onto the children, this implies the idea that even children must pay the price that the self-sacrifice of their fathers demands....

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