The J. Paul Getty Museum

David with the Head of Goliath

Object Details


David with the Head of Goliath


Guido Cagnacci (Italian, 1601 - 1663)




Italy (Place Created)


about 1645–1650


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



108.3 × 86.4 cm (42 5/8 × 34 in.)

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Object Description

The Old Testament tells of the shepherd boy, David, who felled a seemingly invincible adversary, Goliath, by slinging a stone that struck the giant on the forehead.  The Biblical hero then used Goliath's own sword to cut off his head. Here, Cagnacci depicts David after the victory, when he made his triumphal return to Jerusalem, carrying the severed head of the Philistine. In the wake of the bloody battle he has changed into sumptuous clothes, as described in 1 Samuel 18.4: “And Jonathan stripped himself of the coat with which he was clothed, and gave it to David, and the rest of his garments.”

The young hero’s outfit is not illustrative of Old Testament dress, but certainly from a later period. The practice of depicting Biblical and historical protagonists in luxurious contemporary garments had a long tradition, which Cagnacci would have admired in the paintings of his Renaissance and seventeenth-century predecessors. These include Paolo Veronese, whose work he studied with great attention, and Caravaggio, whose followers he encountered in Rome. The clothing that David wears, however, is not typical seventeenth-century fashion, but perhaps theatrical costume—Cagnacci is also known to have maintained close links to the theatrical milieu of his day.

by 2004

Private Collection (Germany) [Neumeister, Munich, December 2, 2004, lot 2847]
Note: sold as a copy after Cagnacci

2004 -
after 2004
- 2008

Adam Williams Fine Art, Ltd. (London), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.

Corps et ombres: Caravage et le caravagisme européen / Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy (June 23, 2012 to June 16, 2013)
  • Musée Fabre (Montpellier), June 23 to October 14, 2012

Benati, Daniele. "Guido Cagnacci: Il corpo e l'anima." In Guido Cagnacci: Protagonista del seicento tra Caravaggio e Reni, exh. cat. Daniele Benati and Antonio Paolucci, eds. (Milan: Silvana, 2008), pp. 46-47, fig. 24.

Muti, Laura, and Daniele de Sarno Prignano. Guido Cagnacci: Hypóstasis (Faenza: Edit Faenza, 2009), pp. 213, 373-75, no. 48, pl. XIII.

Hilaire, Michel, and Axel Hémery, eds. Corps et ombres: Caravage et le caravagisme européen, exh. cat. (Montpellier and Toulouse: Musée Fabre and Musée des Augustins, with 5 Continents, 2012), pp. 280-81, no. 69, ill., entry by Michel Hilaire.

Hilaire, Michel. "La tentation caravagesque." In Corps et ombres: Caravage et le caravagisme européen, exh. cat. Michel Hilaire and Axel Hémery, eds. (Montpellier and Toulouse: Musée Fabre and Musée des Augustins, with 5 Continents, 2012), pp. 270-71.

Salomon, Xavier F. The Art of Guido Cagnacci (New York: Frick Collection, with Scala, 2016), pp. 74-78, fig. 39.

Allan, Scott, Davide Gasparotto, Peter Björn Kerber, and Anne T. Woollett. Masterpieces of Painting: J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018), p. 64, ill.