David with the Head of Goliath (1607) Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Caravaggio loved to produce dramatic, almost frightening, depictions of religious and mythical content, and we find several different interpretations of David with the Head of Goliath within his career. This iteration comes from 1607, at which point he was a confident and fully accomplished artist.

This artist was not scared to show the brutality of each moment that he chose to depict. Others would perhaps show a time of celebration or relief, but to actually display the head itself would have shocked many. This approach perfectly matched his artistic style of dramatic uses of light. In the example of this painting, the light is given only to the two figures, with everything else hidden by a mass of blackness. The focus in his work was never ambigious, and many grew to appreciate this way of capturing scenes that had already featured in European art for several centuries before. There can be nothing more symbolic of victory than to see David displaying the head of Goliath after his impressive overcoming of the odds. This myth has become a major part of western literature, with the public regularly referring to this event as a mark of what can be possible, however unlikely.

This memorable composition captures the victorious David with a sword in his right hand, hung over his shoulder. His clothing is partially ripped as a result of his recent battle, but he otherwise looks in surprisingly good health. His shirt and trousers are fairly simple, suggesting relatively modest beginnings. He holds the head of Goliath in his left hand and its face is directed at the viewer of the painting. Our feelings are not spared in this honest, perhaps gruesome depiction of the famous myth. We see every last detail of Goliath's head, other than where the slice was made. The condition of him suggests that this has only just occured, and this was something that Caravaggio liked to do. He would often focus on the dramatic moment in order to heighten our senses, rather than trying to hide any shock factor behind some carefully symbolic additions that others would have done.

This painting can be found at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria. Most of the artist's work still resides in his native Italy, some of them even still in the specific building for which they were originally intended. This extraordinary venue boasts a large number of rooms which are filled with some of the most significant names in European art history, dating all the way back to the early Renaissance. Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel is certainly one of the highlights to be found here, plus they also have other Caravaggio paintings here as well, such as the Crowning with Thorns and Madonna of the Rosary. Aside from those, Rubens is also well represented as well, with the likes of Miracles of St Francis Xavier, Angelica and the Hermit, Ildefonso Altarpiece, Self Portrait and The Fur all within their impressive collection. Even the architecture of the building itself is enough to warrant a visit to this fine location, even before you start to browse the wonderful items found within it.