He painted David and Goliath three times. The first time was in 1599. We may see this painting now in the
This painting is all about David doing his work quietly and quickly. He is young and serious. Goliath is lying on the ground. He is big and dead. Blood still flows from the hole in his forehead where he was hit by David’s stone. His eyes and mouth are still open in surprise.
Eight years later Caravaggio painted David and Goliath again. We may see this painting now in the Kunsthistorisches (Art History) Museum in
This time David is not so busy. His work is all done. Light shines much more on his face and chest in his moment of triumph. In his right hand he holds Goliath’s sword. In his left hand he holds Goliath’s head. David is calm but his face radiates defiance.
Caravaggio painted David and Goliath a third time just before he died in 1610. We may see this paining now in the Galleria Borghese in
This third painting is similar to the second one. David’s work is still all done. Light still shines on his face and chest in his moment of triumph. In his right hand he still hold’s Goliath’s sword. In his left hand he still holds Goliath’s head.
But there are two important differences. One, he does not hold Goliath’s sword in triumph across his shoulders. In the third painting, David holds this sword low. Two, his expression does not say, “I told you so.” Instead, in this third painting, David’s expression is serious and maybe even philosophical.
In Caravaggio’s first painting, David works quietly and quickly. In the second, David is quiet but definitely triumphant. In Caravaggio’s last painting of him, David is still quiet but neither quick nor triumphant. Instead, David's soul seems far away as he thinks about the meaning of death and life.