David with the Head of Goliath

Object Details


David with the Head of Goliath


Pietro Novelli (Italian (Sicilian), 1603 - 1647)




about 1630s


Oil on canvas


129.5 x 102.2 cm (51 x 40 1/4 in.)

See more

See less

A muscular young man with a strong profile, who looks fully destined to kill a giant and to reign as Israel's king, this David is no innocent boy with a slingshot. Carelessly cradling Goliath's huge, severed head with one arm and his oversize sword in the other, he gazes off into the future.

Pietro Novelli set David against a blank background, pushed his three-quarter-length body up close to the picture plane, and portrayed him as a common man rather than a patrician, following Caravaggio's famous examples. He followed Jusepe de Ribera in using a dark palette, portraying David as an individual rather than a generic common man, and emphasizing the ghastliness of Goliath's head. Novelli probably painted this picture during his time in Naples, where these dramatic contrasts of light and shade were typical.

1890s -

Private Collection (Ireland)

- 1972

Private Collection [sold, Sotheby's, London, July 12, 1972, lot 118, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

Pietro Novelli e il Suo Ambiente / Pietro Novelli and His Surroundings (May 26, 1990 to January 22, 1991) (Cat. II.38)
  • Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, (Palermo), May 26, 1990 to January 22, 1991