David Slaying Goliath

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)
c. 1616
Oil on canvas 
48-3/8 x 39 in. (122.9 x 99.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

Rubens chose to depict the moment when David, having felled the giant and taken possession of his sword, is about to sever the head of his adversary. The two monumental figures occupy nearly the entire painting, with only a fragment of the battle in the background. A strong circular motion (which will be completed with the impending swing of the sword) animates the composition and increases the tension of the drama. The attacking form of David and the prone Goliath are balanced against one another in a wonderfully calculated equilibrium. The background landscape extends into the vast distance, which is emphasized by the low line of the horizon. As a result, the dramatic foreground action is almost completely silhouetted against the sky, and is relieved and balanced only by the variation of color.


Generale Giovanni Francesco Arese (1642-1721), Osnago (Milan), by 1711, sold 1810 by his heirs to;
Prince Eugène de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg (1781-1824), Stadtpalais, Munich, Bequeathed to his son;
Maximilian (d. 1852), Munich, bequeathed to his son;
Nicholas (d. 1890), who transferred the collection to the Marinepalais in St. Petersburg in 1863, bequeathed to his son Nicholas (d. 1928), who sold the painting to;
[A(xel) B(eskow) Nordiska Kompaniet, Stockholm, 1917, sold by Axel Beskow probably to];
Mrs. Hester Mullett, Buffalo, New York (Sotheby's, New York, 15 Nov. 1945, lot. 45, ill. to Pereda);
Vicente Caledonio Pereda, Buenos Aires, Argentina, until 1972.
[Frederick Mont, Inc., New York, 1972, to;]
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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