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On loan from a private collection, © Private collection

The young David stands victorious, a sword in one hand and the rock with which he has slain Goliath in the other.

The picture is painted on lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone mined in the Badakhshan Province in north-eastern Afghanistan. Painting on coloured stone became increasingly popular in Europe, particularly in Italy, in about 1600. Lapis lazuli was extremely expensive in Gentileschi’s own day and was highly prized for its intense blue colour. This, along with the intimate scale and refinement of this picture all point to its execution for a wealthy private patron, though its early history is not known. The artist uses the stone's natural markings and ultramarine colour to represent the cloudy sky and its reflection in the expanse of water below.

Gentileschi painted at least two other variants of the composition: one, painted on canvas and of much larger dimensions (173 x 143 cm), is in Rome’s Galleria Spada. The other, painted on copper and closer in composition and scale to the present work, is in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. All three variants are likely to date from about 1610-12.


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