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Permanent Collection


David with the Head of Goliath
(17th cent.), oil, canvas, 102 x 93 cm

NG S 2127, National Gallery of Slovenia, Ljubljana
The young Jewish hero David is depicted with a sling in his hand as he lays the head of the giant Goliath on a stone block.

The author of the picture is still unknown. Stylistically it is very close to the Venetian painting of the late Cinquecento and early Seicento, especially as regards the depiction of the clothing and the type of the figure. However, there are also indications of a dependence on the painting of the Seicento in Emilia; certain elements suggest that this painting might have originated in Ferrara. Alberto Rizzi formulated the hypothesis that the painter might be Costanzo Catani of Ferrara (1602–1627), but this idea cannot be substantiated by closer comparisons, although it is still the most probable of all suggestions made so far.

Preservation: Good. The canvas has been cut on all four sides.
Restored: 1992, Kemal Selmanović.
Provenance: Unknown. FCC(?); after World War II in Marshal Tito’s residence at Brdo Castle near Kranj; 1986 entrusted to the Narodna galerija by the Government of Slovenia.
Exhibitions: 1960, Ljubljana, No. 8; 1993, Ljubljana, No. 15.
Lit.: Cevc 1960, p. 19, Cat. No. 8, Fig. 4 (Venetian, 16C); Rizzi 1970, p. 234 (17C); Rizzi 1972, p. 132 (Francesco Costanzo Catanio ?); Zeri and Rozman 1993, p. 135, Cat. No. 15, Fig. 28.

From Mannerism to Baroque
Although imported early-Baroque works prevailed in this period and those by itinerant artists, the 17th century paved the way for the future. The political circumstances in the region were relatively stabilized in spite of the Thirty Year War and the patronage gradually grew stronger. The arrival of the Jesuits in Ljubljana, the activity of the polymath Johann Weichard Valvasor, particularly his graphic workshop at Bogenšperk/Wagensperg Castle, and the foundation of the Academia operosorum at the end of the century were the key events of the time. 

Characteristic of sculptural production on the Slovenian territory in the 17th century were the so-called “golden altars”. As a rule, these were gilded and polychrome carved wooden retables with rich ornamentation, first with crustaceous patterns which turned into vine and grapes that covered architectural framework until the achantus foliage took over and obliterated architectural structure completely. The making of golden altars included several branches of fine arts: prints, carving, gilding, painting. Religious painting of the first half of the century still contains Mannerist elements; in the second half also secular motifs became more numerous, particularly genre scenes and aristocratic portraits. The artworks mainly echo northern early-Baroque influences. 

Noteworthy among the newcomers who settled in Carniola with their workshops were the painter and gilder Hans Georg Geiger von Geigerfeld in the mid-century, who had moved to Carniola from the region of the Central Alps, and the Fleming Almanach in the third quarter of the 17th century, known only by his nickname, who worked here only for a few years. The extraordinary productivity and skills of the latter are evidenced by his rare surviving works, mentions in Valvasor’s books, and aristocratic probate inventories.