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European Paintings - French

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David with the Head of Goliath

circa 1620-1623
17th century
133.7 cm x 98 cm (52 5/8 in. x 38 9/16 in.)

Claude Vignon (Tours, France, 1593 - 1670, Paris, France) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, French
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Accession Number: 2017.1424

This painting represents the victorious David with the severed head of Goliath, the giant Philistine warrior that he defeated with a sling. In David’s right hand is Goliath’s sword, which he used to cut off the giant’s head. The shepherd boy’s sumptuous headdress and clothes originally belonged to Jonathan, the son of King Saul, who took off his princely robes and gave them to the courageous young man as a token of affection. David is depicted as androgynous, which reflects an ideal of beauty for young men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Painted during Claude Vignon’s final years in Rome before his return to Paris, the work shows the French artist’s masterful interpretation of Caravaggio’s work. The strong shaft of light coming from the upper left increases the sense of drama in a seemingly calm scene by contrasting the beauty of the protagonist with the horror of the preceding event.

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