David Slaying Goliath
c. 1616
Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)
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.


  • Artist Name: Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577-1640)
  • Title: David Slaying Goliath
  • Date: c. 1616
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: 48-3/8 x 39 in. (122.9 x 99.1 cm)
  • Credit Line: The Norton Simon Foundation
  • Accession Number: F.1972.05.P
  • Copyright: © The Norton Simon Foundation

Object Information

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.

[on loan]

  • Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1972-03 to 1972-06-13

Selections from the Norton Simon Foundation and the Norton Simon, Inc. Museum

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1972-06-13 to 1974-11-26

[on loan]

  • Chrysler Museum, 1980-11-03 to 1981-07-27

Reinstallation of Galleries: Art History of the 17th and 18th Century Gains Fresh Dimension

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1993-09-02 to 1995-08-13

To Do Battle: Conflict, Struggle, and Symbol in Art

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2002-03-08 to 2002-07-08
  • Held, Julius S., Rubens: Selected Drawings, under no. 63 p. 95
  • Valentiner, Willem R., The Art Quarterly, no. 52 p. 159
  • Rooses, Max, L'oeuvre de P. P. Rubens, p. 146; p. 312
  • Muxel, J. N., Catalogue des tableaux de la galerie de feu son altesse royal monseigneur le prince Eugène, duc de Leuchtenberg à Munich, 1825, no. 94 p. 38
  • Muxel, J. N., Catalogue des tableaux de la galerie de feu son altesse royale monseigneur le prince Eugène, duc le Leuchtenberg à Munich, 1828, no. 94 p. 38
  • Smith, John, Catalogue raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch Painters, 1842, no. 17 p. 247
  • Verzeichniss der Beldergalerie seiner königlichen Hoheit des Prinzen Eugen, Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in Munchen, 1843, no. 129 p. 48
  • Muxel, J. N, Catalogue des tableaux de la galerie de feu son altesse royale monseigneur le prince Eugène, duc de Leuchtenberg à Munich, 1845, no. 129 p. 49
  • Passavant, J. D., Galerie Leuchtenberg: Gemälde-Sammlung . . . des Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München, 1851, no. 110 p. 22
  • Muxel, J. N., Gemälde Sammlung in München . . . des Dom Augusto, Herzogs von Leuchtenberg und Santa Cruz, seiner Königlichen Hoheit der Fursten von Eichstadt . . ., 1851, no. 94 p. 3
  • Passavant, J., Gemälde-Sammlung Seiner Kaiserl. Hoheit des Herzogs von Leuchtenberg in München . . . A Collection of Pictures Forming the Celebrated Gallery of His Imperial Highness the Duke of Leuchtenberg, at Munich, 1852, no. 110 p. 18
  • Waagen, Gustav F., Die Gemäldesammlung in der kaiserlichen Eremitage zu St. Petersburg & andere dortige Kunstsammlungen, 1864, no. 129 p. 383
  • Wuzbach, A., Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon, 1910, p. 511
  • Liphard-Rathshoff, Renard de, Leuchtenbergska Tavel-Samlingen, 1917, no. 45 [110] p. 48
  • Oldenbourg, P. P. Rubens, des Meisters Gemälde [Klassiker der Kunst, 50], 1921, fig. 58 p. 101
  • Oldenbourg, Rudolf, Peter Paul Rubens. Sammlung der von Rudolf Oldenbourg veröffentlichen oder zur veröffentlichung vorbereiteten Abhandlungen über den Meister, 1922, fig. 58 p. 101
  • d'Hulst, R.; and L. Burchard, Catalogus Tekeningen van P. P. Rubens, 1956, no. 38 p. 50
  • d'Hulst, R. ; and L. Burchard, Rubens Drawings, 1963, no. 70 pp. 116-117
  • Morse, John D., Old Master Paintings in North America, 1979, p. 242
  • Held, Julius S., The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens, 1980, under no. 11 p. 43
  • Norton Simon Museum, Selected Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum, 1980, p. 46
  • D. W. S., The Chrysler Museum, 1981,
  • Silverman, R., Learning About Art, A Practical Approach, 1982, pp. 122-124
  • Held, Julius S., Rubens: Selected Drawings, 1986, under no. 26 pp. 104, 116-117
  • Moller, Vibeke Andesson ; and Karin Vestergaard, Nationalmuseets Arvejdsmark, 1988, pp. 84-86
  • Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum, 1989, p. 54
  • Jaffé, Michael, Catalogo Completo Rubens, 1989, no. 389 p. 221
  • d'Hulst, R.; and M. Vandenven, Rubens: The Old Testament [Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard, part III], 1989, no. 38 pp. 125-128
  • Meij, Dr. A.W.F.M., Rubens, Jordaens, van Dyck and Their Circle, 2001, fig. 3 p. 96
  • Campbell, Sara, Collector Without Walls: Norton Simon and His Hunt for the Best, 2010, cat. 759 p. 336
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Additional Artwork by Artist

Autograph Letter (Written in Secretary's Hand in Dutch, Signed by Rubens on Verso) Peter Paul Rubens 1618
Meleager and Atalanta and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar Peter Paul Rubens c. 1618-19
Portrait of Anne of Austria, Queen of France Peter Paul Rubens c. 1622-25

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