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Francesco Pesellino, The Triumph of David

Key facts
Full title The Triumph of David
Artist Francesco Pesellino
Artist dates 1422 - 1457
Series Story of David Panels from a Pair of Cassoni (?)
Date made about 1445-55
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 43.3 × 177 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the assistance of the Art Fund and a number of gifts in wills, 2000
Inventory number NG6580
Location Gallery D
Collection Main Collection
The Triumph of David
Francesco Pesellino

A fantastic procession winds its way through a Tuscan landscape dotted with hills and walled towns. Extravagantly dressed nobles ride prancing horses, while their hounds, a hunting cheetah and even a bear trot along beside them.

Although it looks like medieval Italy, this actually shows a biblical event: David’s triumphant return to Jerusalem after killing the giant Goliath, an enemy of Israel. He stands proudly on a horse-drawn cart, holding Goliath’s head by the hair.

This long and detailed painting was probably once set into the panelling of a room, maybe above a chest or a seat. At the right a young man and a woman greet each other outside the walls of a city – this might be a betrothal, and the panel was possibly made to celebrate a marriage.

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Story of David Panels from a Pair of Cassoni (?)


There’s so much going on in these pictures that it’s hard to make out the story. Battles and parades, knights and nobles, horses, hounds, lions, bears and giants are crammed in a flowery Tuscan landscape. Although it looks like a fairy tale set in medieval Italy, the story comes from the Bible and tells how a brave shepherd boy, David, married a princess after defeating a giant, Goliath.

The long shape of each painting is due to their original function. They would probably have been set into the panelling of a private room, possibly over a chest. We don't know exactly who they were made for, but emblems associated with the Medici, the ruling family of Florence in the fifteenth century, are shown on some of the clothing. They might have been made for a Medici marriage.