David victorious over Goliath

Caravaggio was a 17th century Italian Baroque painter. He led a stormy life filled with duels and deaths, fleeing from city to city to escape from justice. He died in 1610 in strange circumstances when he was trying to return to Rome. He created a new painting style that was to have a huge influence during the 17th century, known as Tenebrism. It consisted of using a new form of lighting, called chiaroscuro, or light-and-shade. Placed against black backgrounds, the figures are harshly lit by the light source, producing strong contrasts of light and shade.

The painter also abandoned the Renaissance ideals of beauty, and used sitters taken from the streets, such as beggars and prostitutes, so as to portray his figures as realistically as possible. He even had trouble with the Church, because he painted the death of the Virgin Mary using as his sitter a woman who had drowned in the Tiber river.

This is the only painting by Caravaggio the Prado possesses. It shows the victory of young David over the giant, Goliath, at the very moment when, after having toppled the giant, he ties up Goliath’s head to display it as a trophy. It is terribly realistic. The influence of Caravaggio can be seen in the work of Spanish painters such Ribalta and Ribera, although they are, fortunately, less dramatic.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns