The Tennis Court Oath

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The Tennis Court Oath by Jacques Louis David

Sketch for a painting commemorating the Tennis Court Oath by David. Consciously modeled after the Oath of the Horatii.






Jacques Louis David, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, felt that it was the artist’s moral duty was to paint elevated subjects and that these subjects should be rooted in ancient notions of virtue. In his speeches to the Convention David expressed the belief that works of art might become inspiring to future generations of spectators. The compelling nature of David’s paintings is sometimes considered as propaganda for the cause of the French Revolution.

In this painting the artist depicted an event of the French Revolution, the Tennis Court Oath, where delegates vowed in defiance of royal authority not to leave until they had drafted a constitution for France. He consciously used an event from Roman history, the Oath of the Horatii as a model. His painting the Oath of the Horatii glorified self sacrifice and patriotism. It was these virtues that he was calling upon here.

Oath of the Horatii
Oath of the Horatii; Jacques Louis David
Tennis Court Oath Detail
Tennis Court Oath detail; Jacques Louis David

The Enlightenment

The Tennis Court Oath

The Tennis Court Oath Text

The Enlightenment Primary Sources

The French Revolution

French Revolution Primary Sources

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