Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Caravaggio – David with the Head of Goliath

Posted by NT Wrong on August 3, 2008

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610) painted a series of famous ‘David and Goliath’ paintings, including David with the Head of Goliath (1607).

The severed head of Goliath is a self-portrait; Caravaggio’s own head. The model for David was Caravaggio’s boy lover, Cecco. The relationship between the two men sheds light on Caravaggio’s erotic depiction of David, with shirt falling off one shoulder, and trousers partly undone.

In the painting below, David’s sword is inscribed with H-AS O S, in Latin: Humilitas occidit superbiam (“Humility slays pride”). The maxim is taken from Augustine, who interprets the duel between David and Goliath, morally, as one between humility and pride and, typologically, as one between Christ and Satan.

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