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David with the Head of Goliath

Merisi Michelangelo called Caravaggio

(Milan 1571 - Porto Ercole 1610)

The painting was probably made in Naples, where Caravaggio, who fled Rome in 1606, was in exile on charges of murder. The choice of subject, with the hero of Israel’s victory over the Philistine giant Goliath, was probably that of the painter himself. David is not proud or triumphant as he holds and observes the severed head of Goliath; his expression is more like the pitiable one a “sinner”, and the face is Caravaggio’s own self-portrait. The description of Goliath's face, so vividly expressive in the furrowed forehead, the gaping mouth taking a last breath, the suffering look, the lifeless complexion, represents the final stage of the human drama as experienced by the artist. Critics have determined the inscription on the sword, “H.AS O S” to be the Augustinian motto Humilitas occidit superbiam. The biblical episode thus becomes an impressive testimonial to the last months of Caravaggio's life. The hypothesis that the painter may have sent the canvas to Cardinal Scipione Borghese, as a gift to be delivered to Pope Paul V to obtain forgiveness and return to his homeland, becomes plausible. Caravaggio was pardoned, but almost at the end of his journey to Rome, he died on the beach of Porto Ercole under circumstances that remain mysterious to this day.


Object details

Inventory
455
Location
Classification
Period
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
cm 125x101
Provenance
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