As demanded by the rules of the Institut, Ingres painted his figure study from a live model. He got his model to use the same pose as the classical statue of Hermes with the Sandal (Musée du Louvre). It is a pose which accentuates the musculature of the model's body, making him appear strong and determined. His body, limbs, and the javelins that he is holding all form geometrically harmonious shapes. The clarity of the contours, the muted use of chiaroscuro and the slight surface relief given to the figure of Oedipus add an archaic flavor to the picture. This archaism had its roots in Ingres's taste for Greek vases. However, Ingres transformed the canvas in 1827, toning down the archaic aspect and giving it a more modern, even a romantic, appearance. He also made certain sections darker and painted the additional figure with his expression of terror.
 Father, what is this? With no gentle motion, as is their wont, do the entrails shake and quiver, but my whole hand do they cause to tremble and blood spurts afresh from the veins. The heart, diseased through and through, is withered and lies deep hidden, and the reins are of livid hue. A great part of the entrails is wanting, and from the rotting liver black gall oozes forth, and see – ever fatal omen for sole sovereignty – two heads rise side by side with equal bulge; yet each cloven head is hidden in but thin membrane, refusing a lurking place to secret things. The hostile 29 side rises with sturdy strength and shows seven swelling veins; but all these an intercepting line cuts straight across, preventing their return. The positions have been changed; no organ lies in its own place, but all things reversed: on the right side lie the lungs all clogged with blood, and with no room for breath; on the left is not the region of the heart; no caul with soft covering stretches its rich folds over the entrails. Nature is subverted; even the womb follows not its law. Let us look close and see whence comes this stiffness in the entrails. What monstrosity is this? A foetus in an unmated heifer! nor does it lie in accustomed fashion, but fills its mother in an unnatural place. Moaning it moves its limbs, and its weak members twitch with convulsive rigors. Livid gore has stained the entrails black. [ She ceases her inspection as the bodies of the victims suddenly begin to move. ] The sadly mangled forms essay to move, and one disembowelled body strives to rise and menaces the priests with its horns; the entrails flee from my hand. Nor is that wound which strikes thy ears the deep lowing of the herd, nor are frightened cattle bellowing anywhere; it is the lowing of the altar-fires, the affrighted murmurings of the hearth.