David and Goliath, by Caravaggio


David and Goliath
Italian Painter Caravaggio
Undated, oil on canvas, Madrid

The Council of Trent had an enormous impact upon the arts.  This impact is seen through the creation of David and Goliath, by Caravaggio.  The Council of Trent provided some specific guidelines art must abide by: art must be easily understood, dramatic, emotional, and was meant to inspire spiritual fervor.  The depiction of David removing Goliaths head can’t be made any more clearly.  According to the Bible, David was just a boy who was able to overcome the Philistine champion Goliath with Gods help.  The boy in the painting does indeed look very young, as well as confident, like he has some sort of spiritual protection.  Goliath looks just as I would imagine him to be.  I think most people have heard the story of David and Goliath.  The only way someone wouldn’t understand is if they had never read the bible or heard the passage.  The painting is also very dramatic.  The detail is a little overwhelming at first.  David has just slain Goliath and is now removing his head.  Goliaths eyes are rolled back into his head, and the cut on his head where the stone hit him is still bleeding.  When viewing this painting, many emotions are drawn to the surface.  One imagines his/ her self in David’s place, thinking about how much courage it must have been to offer to fight Goliath.  Although David knew God was on his side, still it would have been nerve wracking.  I’m sure those who view this painting are reminded that if they place their trust in God, they will be protected by him.
I really enjoy this painting because of my background.  I was raised in a Christian home and have heard this story many times.  It makes me feel powerful that I have God to help me through hard times.  I also enjoy just taking the painting in.  The detail is very amazing.  I think Caravaggio hit the nail on the head with the characters appearances.


One Response to “David and Goliath, by Caravaggio”

  1. artisanx Says:

    Attributed to Caravaggio by Roberto Longhi with a date of creation at or around 1598-1599 (www.caravaggio.com), this piece epitomizes the ideals described by the Council of Trent. As you’ve mentioned, the subject matter is easy to recognize and understand, and begs the viewer to “put yourself in David’s shoes”, as it were.

    Caravaggio was the consummate master of tenebroso and dynamic staging, drawing the viewer into the space of the image and communication distinct emotions through deliberate use of light and blended shadow. It is Caravaggio’s masterful use of transparent shadow, not simply “dark and light”, that cements his characters in reality. Further, the exclusion of landscape and exterior detail servers to focus one’s attention to the thematic representations at hand.

    In the image, David does seem to have a quiet determination and a resolve that goes beyond personal confidence. As you’ve stated, He seems imbued with a spiritual sense of self-assurance that makes his gruesome task appear commonplace, as though killing the Giant was “no big deal”. This must have appealed a religious minded audience that sought to associate themselves with any sense of spiritual righteousness.

    Other similar images have been controversially attributed to Caravaggio, but this one stands above the rest as one of his unique style and ability.

    Thank you for sharing your insights and presenting a wonderful piece of artwork with the rest of us.

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