Apr 7, 2016

The Oath of the Seven Chiefs against Thebes

The Oath of the Seven Chiefs against Thebes

c. 1800

Black chalks and white chalk with stumping and erasing on light brown wove paper

Support: Light brown wove paper

Overall: 41.8 x 62 cm (16 7/16 x 24 7/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2000.71



Girodet found inspiration for this drawing in Aeschylus’s Greek tragedy Seven against Thebes. Dramatized with powerful physicality, seven warrior leaders from Argos raise weapons to the war deities Ares and Enyo at the far left as they immerse their hands in the blood of a sacrificed bull, and swear an oath to defeat Thebes. Girodet’s strong black outlines and idealized male nudes are characteristic of Neoclassicism’s calculated restraint. Yet the flash of lightning and the warrior’s impassioned expressions intensify the emotional and psychological content of the scene, anticipating the growth of romanticism in European art during the early 1800s.

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