In the extraordinary canvas, hitherto unpublished, the finely chased hilt of the sword is placed diagonally to better capture the gaze of the onlooker and glistens in all its splendour, forcefully conveying the power of the object. The sword had proved useless against the intelligence, shrewdness, courage and faith of the young shepherd boy from Bethlehem, yet ironically had become the weapon that David used to definitively sanction his triumph. The unassuming yet fundamental sling he had used to hurl the stones is still held in his left hand, which is delicately placed to cover the gruesome, still bleeding trophy, from which he casts aside his gaze. One senses a certain melancholy in the large vacant eyes, as if, after having savoured the pleasure of victory, they had lingered on commiserating the presumptuous Philistine who had dared to challenge divine power. The image is of a subtly pensive David, a far cry from that of the young victor exalted as the precursor of Christ handed down to us by biblical tradition. It is above all an earthly and profane declaration of beauty offered up by nature.
The artist who painted this extraordinary work is, for evident stylistic reasons, Sebastiano Ricci, the greatest exponent of 18th-century Venetian painting, one of the most splendidly luminous artistic periods, and, with good reason, highly appreciated by art scholars. In tackling a subject that had been translated into some of the most celebrated sculptures and paintings of all time, not to say veritable icons of art history, Ricci brilliantly passes the test. For we stand before a true masterpiece, one that clearly reveals its creator’s superlative skill in draughtsmanship and painting, lively creative intelligence, and absolute originality as regards the iconographical representation. This Davidis an extremely important addition to Ricci’s already voluminous and varied catalogue of religious, historico-literary and allegorical paintings often preceded by preliminary sketches or models.
Catalogue edited by Francesca Baldassari