David and Goliath (Caravaggio, Vienna)

David and Goliath (David with the Head of Goliath) by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
David with the Head of Goliath (1607)
by Caravaggio

Presence of David and Goliath (Vienna)

Portrait of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio by baroque painter Ottavio Leoni in 1621
Portrait of Caravaggio
 (1621) by Ottavio Leoni
David and Goliath (or David with the Head of Goliath or David Victorious over Goliath), is the medium piece of three paintings Caravaggio worked on, between 1600 (Madrid Version) and 1610 (Rome Version). Italian baroque artist, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio painted the Vienna version of this biblical concept in 1607. It is an oil on canvas like the others about the well know Bible story David and Goliath, which is mentioned in 1 Samuel 17 KJV regarding the Bible Gateway. The presence of the canvas is in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna Austria. Among repeating artworks Caravaggio worked on with his baroque style like Medusa and John the Baptist, David and Goliath (Vienna) has been crated just after Caravaggio’s runaway life began. Due to the artist’s rebellious nature and irritableness, he killed a man named Ranuccio Tomassoni because of an argument over a tennis game in 1606. Only one year after he painted the second version of David with the Head of Goliath (Vienna). The artist also created some other precious works at this period like Seven Works of Mercy, Crowning with Thorns and Madonna of the Rosary (Madonna del Rosario). In the household of Colonna Family in Naples, where he fled and ask papal pardon after murdering. First version of David with the Head of Goliath, created circa 1599-1600, belongs to the youthful period of the artist according to art historians. While Madrid’s Prado Museum has it, the canvas is assumed as one of his early paintings on religious concept. As last one of the David and Goliath paintings, Rome version, which is created in 1610 approximately, is one of the last paintings Caravaggio worked on before his death. The last canvas is held in Galleria Borghese, Rome Italy.

David with the Head of Goliath Analysis

The Resurrection of Jesus (1619), baroque painting by Francesco Boneri, also known as Cecco del Caravaggio
The Resurrection (1619)
by Cecco del Caravaggio
Among three paintings of Caravaggio depicted on the bible scripture of David and Goliath, Vienna and Madrid versions have more characteristic features by having inner self portraits. Recognizably, the face of Goliath implies Cecco del Caravaggio that was a notname used by Francesco Boneri (or Buoneri), who was one of the early followers of Caravaggio, and famous for The Resurrection of Jesus painting. However, it is known that Caravaggio utilized Chiaroscuro technique to create dramatic scenes and make his art more naturalistic, paintings of the artists turned darker and more violent in this period, when he fled to Napoli then Malta. David and Goliath (Vienna) is one the early paintings that indicate this slight change in Caravaggio’s life and art style. David’s image in the painting, reveals some clues about the artist’s feeling about his crime. His victorious and confident looking points out that Caravaggio has not felt regret about his murdering. David stands over the ground with the head of Goliath. The weapon he put his large shoulders, is Goliath’s sword and used to cut the giants head according to biblical context. Caravaggio depicts the exact moment that David presents the head of Goliath to King Saul, who was the King of Israel.

Portrait of Cecco del Caravaggio as Severed Head of Goliath (Caravaggio, Vienna, 1607)
Portrait of Cecco del Caravaggio
as Severed Head of Goliath
This kind of severed head depictions are largely used in art for the purpose of reminding famous life motto ‘Memento Mori’, what is meaning of ‘remember that you must die’ in Latin Language. Although three Caravaggio paintings on the subject about David’s story, contain Goliath’s separated head, Vienna version mostly indicates a triumphant young boy, who had managed to kill his strongest enemy, instead of being a reminder for dead. Caravaggio’s usage of darkness in Vienna version, is less when compared with Madrid and Rome versions. David was depicted clearly besides a negligible part of his face. The balance of dark and light, are sharper when compared other baroque paintings regarding Chiaroscuro technique. However, Chiaroscuro means light and dark in word to word translation of Italian to English.

Caravaggio's depiction of Biblical David in the painting of David and Goliath in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
David the Young Shepherd
Caravaggio availed himself of this painting method to create Tenebrism, which has slight differences from Chiaroscuro. Three paintings on the subject about how David killed Goliath that Caravaggio depicted, contains severed head of Goliath in different levels of violence. While Madrid Version has the least violent one, Rome Version is highly brutal representation for Goliath leading Caravaggio himself. Here in the Vienna Version, David's unregretful face expression is clearly seen, while Caravaggio utilizes his asistant and follower to create the head of Goliath. It could be told that Vienna Version has the least claim of including the acts of violence among three David and Goliath depictions of the artist.

Caravaggism, Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro

Statue of Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini circa 1622-1625 in Baroque Period
Apollo and Daphne
 (1622-1625) by Bernini
Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath in Kunsthistorisches Museum, has the characteristics of Tenebrism Art Movement by having light and dark contrast to reveal a dramatic and realistic effect for the observers. Caravaggio used this painting method to create striking images for the purpose of reaching naturalistic realism that he wanted to access. Many famous painters, who are accepted as greatest ones of visual arts for Baroque period, such as Peter Paul Rubens, Frans Hals, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Johannes Vermeer and Diego Velázquez, are influenced by Caravaggio’s paintings and attached to his baroque style. Moreover, Italian sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, was a successor of Caravaggio. Life-sized baroque sculpture Apollo and Daphne Bernini carved from marble, brought him an arguable title of the greatest sculptor of 17th Century, with the help of his outstanding artworks including tombs, chapels and altars.

Saint Peter's Baldachin over the high altar of Saint Peter's Basilica. Attributed to Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Baroque Period
Saint Peter's Baldachin
(1623-1634) by Bernini
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is one of them and located only two minutes walk away from Sistine Chapel of Vatican Palace, where is famous for ceiling frescos of seven prophets depicted by Michelangelo. Contribution of Bernini and his predecessor Carlo Maderno, seems in a sculpted bronze canopy in situ, named as St. Peter's Baldachin, over the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica, in addition to previous architects and artists worked in construction and design. Among Vatican City, it can be seen all art periods and their effects on religious artworks. As one of them, Vatican Museums have Greek artworks from Hellenistic Period like Laocoön and His Sons. Among all these historical buildings and sculptures including divine purposes, Baroque architecture varies from the others with its characteristics. When it comes to the paintings, baroque artists have carried Caravaggio’s Tenebrism a step forward. Painting technique named Chiaroscuro, which is a combination of the words ‘light’ and ‘dark’ when translated Italian to English straightforwardly, could be accepted as the starting point for Caravaggio’s Tenebrism.

Hero and Sibyl is a wood print made by Ugo da Carbi with Chiaroscuro technique circa 1509-1532
Hero and Sibyl (1509-1532)
by Ugo da Carbi
Chiaroscuro technique, also called as Rembrandt Lighting, is an art term born in 16th Century, however it is a highly used method by photographers today. Italian printmaker Ugo da Carpi, who was active in Rome, Venice and Bologna between 1509 and 1532, is assumed as father of Chiaroscuro technique due to his usage of light and shade on wood blocks to create more realistic image. Presence of these woodcut prints from early 16th century, gives out a few clues about the differences between Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro in terms of purpose and practice. In general, Caravaggio’s Tenebrism means focusing on creating a dramatic effect on the painting subject, while using completely black background for the great majority of canvas. For light and dark compositions Caravaggio attempted, distinctions remain sharper when compared to Chiaroscuro, which uses positive form of shadows contrary to Caravaggio’s purely negative black.

Saint Jerome by baroque painter Jusepe de Ribera, a follower of Caravaggio Merisi, circa 1644
Saint Jerome (1644)
by Jusepe de Ribera
Besides practicing variations, the key difference between Tenebrism and to Chiaroscuro Is the aim of utilizing dark tones. Baroque artists influenced by Caravaggio, prominently used this painting technique to bring out three dimensional images, while Caravaggio’s main purpose is only to make the observer focus on dramatic and shocking expressions of his subjects by not letting the viewer distract because of other things on the canvas. With their slight differences according to visual arts, art historians put Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro in the same pot and named it as Caravaggism (or Caravaggisti), what refers to the new baroque style emerged from Mannerism by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, during the late 16th and early 17th Centuries in Baroque Era. While Caravaggio and Ugo da Carpi are assumed as the fathers of Tenebrism and Chiaroscuro technique respectively, there are some artists that availed themselves of both Caravaggio’s style, naturalism and religious concepts with Rembrandt Lighting to paint.

Tityus by baroque painter Jusepe de Ribera, a follower of Caravaggio Merisi, circa 1632
Tityus (1632)
by Jusepe de Ribera
This perspective imitation can be seen in the artworks of Spanish Baroque painters Francisco Ribalta and Jusepe de Ribera (or José de Ribera). It just so happens that Prado Museo, where David with the Head of Goliath (Madrid) is exhibited, hosts many paintings and sketches by Caravaggesque artists Ribera and Ribalta. While Tityus by Ribera has totally black background in respect to Caravaggio’s style, there exists positive and lighter forms of dark in Saint Jerome painting of the artist, just like that rest of the canvas brightened barely by a lit source. Jacob’s Dream, which depicts one of the best-known bible stories, varies from the others with its characteristics. Sunlight has been utilized as major lighting material for shading techniques.

Jacob's Dream by baroque painter Jusepe de Ribera, follower of Caravaggio Merisi, circa 1639
Jacob's Dream (1639)
 by Jusepe de Ribera
While Ribera depicts Jacob the Patriarch´s mysterious dream mentioned in Genesis, daylight coming through the clouds, enlightens rest of the canvas and reveal a clear view. However, usage of dark tones is very limited, this baroque design is also included in Tenebrism art movement. For Francisco Ribalta, there exists less canvases but more pencil drawings in Prado Museum, Madrid. Mary Magdalene before Christ’s Tomb, Christ embracing Saint Bernard and Saint Francis comforted by an Angel are some of them that follows Caravaggism ideals. The pencil drawings Ribalta create with white lead, also depicts religious events and subjects such as The Trinity and The Coronation of the Virgin.

'The Coronation of the Virgin by an Angel' by baroque artist Francisco Ribalta, in Prado Museum, Madrid. Circa 16th Century
The Coronation of the Virgin by an Angel
(16th Century) by Francisco Ribalta
Caravaggio’s rebellious nature and his rejection of the beauty ideals of Renaissance, bear his traces in the artworks of his successors. Ribalta also preferred an eccentrical way to draw Saint John the Baptist, who is one of the supreme figures in Christianity and familiar from deesis mosaics including a trilogy with Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. Although, rebellion in the religious works of these baroque painters, shows itself, they never painted excessively violent as Caravaggio did in his paintings like Judith Beheading Holofernes, Medusa and David with the Head of Goliath (Rome). In consideration of melodrama, paintings of Francisco de Zurbarán, also known as Spanish Caravaggio, are closer to the original Caravaggio.

'Still Life with Lemons Oranges and a Rose' by Francisco de Zurbarán circa 1633 in Norton Simon Museum, California
Still Life with Lemons Oranges and a Rose
(1633) by Francisco de Zurbarán
The artist, who lived and worked in Seville and Madrid, left many canvases behind. Museo Prado holds thirty-eight works of him, including San Francisco, Saint Elisabeth of Portugal, Hercules and Cerberus, The Death of Hercules etc. But it can be claimed that most famous work of Zurbarán, is ‘Naturaleza muerta con limones, naranjas y una rosa’ which means ‘Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose’ when translated from Spanish to English, which is in the inventory of Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California as part of a permanent collection.

Basket of Fruit by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio Caravaggio, early Baroque Period circa 1599
Basket of Fruit (1599)
by Caravaggio
While Zurbarán’s still life painting has all ideals of Tenebrism in terms of light and dark balance, Basket of Fruit Caravaggio painted in 1596 has the characteristics of Mannerism priorly with lack usage of Chiaroscuro technique. Caravaggism art movement did not remain limited under the Veneterian territories in northern Italian peninsula, where it had born. Utrecht Caravaggisti (or Caravaggism), has approximately risen in 1610 within baroque artist influenced by Caravaggio, when approximately he painted the last version of David with the Head of Goliath (Rome). Dirck van Baburen, Hendrick ter Brugghen, Gerard van Honthorst, Adam Elsheimer and Adam Willaerts could be counted as luminaries of Utrecht Caravaggism among European artists of the early 17th Century.

David and Goliath in Real Life

Best known Bible Story of David and Goliath did not inspire only the world of art but many fields. Famous writer Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants book, is one of them in literary community. Furthermore, movies and TV series concerning the story of David and Goliath have been made such as Survivor: David vs. Goliath reality show and movies both named as David and Goliath released in 1960 and 2016 respectively. Underdog situations generally refers to the competitions between weak and strong, which are David and Goliath in this case. Thus, power of intelligence comes to the forefront and tiny looking has a great victory over evil, which is the manner of painters including Caravaggio, who worked on religious artworks, to make a sense of this biblical event.

David and Goliath (Caravaggio, Vienna) David and Goliath (Caravaggio, Vienna) Reviewed by Articonog on May 17, 2020 Rating: 5

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.