The J. Paul Getty Museum

David with the Head of Goliath

Object Details


David with the Head of Goliath


Parmigianino (Francesco Mazzola) (Italian, 1503 - 1540)




about 1535


Pen and brown ink

Object Number:



29.5 × 21.6 cm (11 5/8 × 8 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

Parmigianino relied only on line to create gradations of light and shadow and to model his forms. A wide range of hatchings and cross-hatchings unify the drawing. Light diagonal lines create the open atmosphere of the sky, while darker cross-hatching shapes the substantive parts: David's muscular body, his fluttering cape, and the ground behind him.

Parmigianino used sure yet delicate contours to define David, but Goliath's head is a mass of wispy, waving lines of beard and hair providing the flimsiest of outlines. He suggested Goliath's sunken eyes with quickly jotted marks and enhanced the thrusting effect of David's dynamic step forward with his billowing cape. The sure ink lines and lack of corrections display the artist's instinctive and prolific draftsmanship. "He had no sooner taken a pen in his hand to learn to write than he began to draw marvelously," reported his biographer Giorgio Vasari.

One Hundred Original Drawings by Il Parmigiano and Ant. A. Da Corregio. (1836)
  • Lawrence Gallery (London), 1836
North Italian Drawings of the 15th through the 17th Century (July 27 to October 10, 1993)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), July 27 to October 10, 1993
Drawings by Correggio and Parmigianino (October 6, 2000 to May 6, 2001)
  • The British Museum (London), October 6, 2000 to January 7, 2001
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), February 4 to May 6, 2001
Spectacular Mysteries: Renaissance Drawings Revealed (December 11, 2018 to April 28, 2019)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 11, 2018 to April 28, 2019