Please compare the use of elements in The Oath of Horatii (c. 1784, oil on canvas) by David (Jacques Louis) to the use of elements in Mozart’s Symphony 40 in G minor.
Explain and Focus on the similarities of the parallel elements:
1. Form (a visual art element) and Form (a musical element)
2. Space (a visual art element) and Rhythm (a musical element)
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- Jacques-Louis David
The Neoclassism movement reached its climax in the paintings of Jacques-Louis David and in the sculptures of Canova. David abandoned the influence of Rococo with its elaborateness for the purity of classical art. In what has been called "the archetypal picture of purist Neoclassicism," in Rome in 1784, David painted The Oath of the Horatii, an arduous effort of classic reduction as the painter reworked the foot of one Horatius twenty times.
In this painting, David rejects the spectacular possibilities of the story in which the three brothers Horatii engaged in a fight with the curatii of Alba in order to end a war between the two states; instead, he creates his own spectacular movement: the swearing of a noble oath by the brothers that they will dedicate their lives to their country. Certainly, in this painting, the masculine force of the brothers is prominent and in contrast to the ladies' quiet and desperate compliance with fate, some of whom are in the shadows and others in the dim light, while the clear, brilliance illuminates the brothers' shining devotion to duty.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Critics agree that Mozart's music stands as "an achetype of the Classical style," also in reaction to the elaborate and intricate Baroque music. In his Symphony 40 in G Minor, written as a sonata, there is a classic reduction as Mozart employs a limited number of instruments and creates a recurring motif, a distinctive melodic or rhythmic idea, that runs throughout the movements. The mood is dark in the first movement as the double basses echo the melody of the violins, but the tone is lighter in the second movement as the key is B flat major, and the melody more lyrical. In the third movement, the "recapitulation," there is a return to the music of the first form, but it is a slightly different and shorter form, Mozart returns to the key of G minor as in the first movement, and ends the movement with perfect cadences given great depth by the use of the entire orchestra.
Both works have a highly ordered, classical form with tonal contrasts. There is a formal arrangement of the subjects of the painting, and the three-part sonata form of exposition, development, and recapitulation used in Mozart's symphony. A contrast of light/dark is also employed in both works; David has the men of his painting in the sharp light and the women are in more subdued light or shadows and they weep in contrast to the men who display no emotion, while Mozart's first movement has a heavier tone carried by the basses than in the second, more lyrical movement that features wind instruments.
Each work has a point of development; in David's work, the men stand in the center and a strong light bears upon them while in Mozart's symphony, the second movement develops the melodic and rhythmic ideas of the first movement in a different key. The three-part sonata form provides much balance to the symphony as the first movement creates, the second develops, and the third repeats in a shortened manner what has been done in both the other movements.
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