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Dick Osseman | all galleries >> Galleries >> Villa Borghese - Rome > Rome B2 Villa Borghese 057.jpg
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22-MAY-2010

Rome B2 Villa Borghese 057.jpg

David with the Head of Goliath
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

David with the Head of Goliath
Artist Caravaggio
Year c.1610
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 125 cm 101 cm (49 in 40 in)
Location Galleria Borghese

David with the Head of Goliath is a painting by the Italian Baroque artist Caravaggio. It is housed in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. The painting, which was in the collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1613, has been dated as early as 1605 and as late as 1609-1610, with more recent scholars tending towards the latter.

The immediate inspiration for Caravaggio is a work by a follower of Giorgione, c.1510, but Caravaggio captures the drama more effectively by having the head dangling from David's hand and dripping blood, rather than resting on a ledge. The sword in David's hand carries an abbreviated inscription H-AS OS; this has been interpreted as an abbreviation of the Latin phrase Humilitas occidit superbiam ("humility kills pride").

David is perturbed, "his expression mingling sadness and compassion." The decision to depict him as pensive rather than jubilant creates an unusual psychological bond between him and Goliath. This bond is further complicated by the fact that Caravaggio has depicted himself as Goliath, while the model for David is il suo Caravaggino, "his own little Caravaggio." This most plausibly refers to Cecco del Caravaggio, the artist's studio assistant in Rome some years previously, recorded as the boy "who lay with him." No independent portraits of Cecco are known, making the identification impossible to verify, but "[a] sexual intimacy between David/model and Goliath/painter seems an inescapable conclusion, however, given that Caravaggio made David's sword appear to project upward, suggestively, between his legs and at an angle that echoes the diagonal linking of the protagonist's gaze to his victim."

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