The Oath of the French Soldiers at Montenesino (Monte Legino), 1797
After Jean Baptiste Joseph Wicar's etching
Etching. 380/375 x 677/679 mm
Inventory number: E779
Works, relating to this work: Jean Baptiste Joseph Wicar, The Oath of the French Soldiars at Montenesino, 1796, drawing, Musée de l'Armée, ParisEnlarge photo
War and conflicts are commonly portrayed in visual art as battle scenes. Joseph Anton Koch’s etching, based on an etching by Jean Baptiste Joseph Wicar (1762-1834), on the other hand, depicts the taking of an oath. On 11 April 1796, the French fought the combined forces of Piedmont and Austria in the battle of Monte Legino. A catastrophic hesitation on the part of the French forces was overcome when the officer in charge, Antoine-Guillaume Rampon (1759-1842) – seen holding the banner in the etching – demanded that all should swear an oath. This was the oath seen in the text on the banner: “The Republic of France. Victory or Death”. They won. This etching contains a moral: when large numbers are gathered to achieve the same purpose, victory is possible even over superior forces.
The motif agrees with Kock’s conviction – he was a representative of republican thinking. He was favourably disposed to the attack on the power of the aristocracy represented by the French Revolution. One of the core ideas was the idea of national unity.