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Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, David and Jonathan (?)

Key facts
Full title David and Jonathan (?)
Artist Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Artist dates about 1459/60 - about 1517/18
Date made about 1505-10
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 40.6 × 39.4 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2505
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
David and Jonathan (?)
Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano

Two young men stroll through the Italian countryside, one of them – rather startlingly – carrying a giant head. He is David and the head is from his defeated enemy, Goliath. The other man is probably David’s friend Jonathan, son of Saul, King of the Israelites.

We are not really sure who or what this small painting was made for. David’s story was very popular at the time: it was an exciting tale and he was understood as a forerunner and ancestor of Christ. But David and Jonathan together is a rare subject.

The rolling sunlit countryside dotted with medieval towns and villages is characteristic of Cima da Conegliano, who has used various tricks to create an illusion of spatial depth. The road and the river converge, leading our eyes towards a single vanishing point. This is combined with aerial perspective, where objects become more indistinct with distance and far off hills appear blue, even though we know they are green.

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