David with a Head of a Goliath

David with the Head of Goliath (Interesting Facts & Tickets)

5/5 - (1 vote)

This scary looking painting – entitled David with the Head of Goliath – is a famous work of art by the legend Caravaggio.

If you are thinking about visiting this artwork on a trip to the Borghese Gallery, then read this guide beforehand so you can get the most out of your time!

The Short History of David with the Head of Goliath


Most of us are familiar with the biblical story of David and Goliath. It is a tale of the weak winning over the strong, the righteous over the bully. The painting is an oil on canvas work dating to the early 17th century.

However, the exact date of its creation is unknown, with experts disputing whether the painting was created in 1605 or 1610.

What is known, however, is that this rather disconcerting masterpiece was held in the extensive collection of Cardinal Borghese, the founding father of the Borghese Gallery.

About The Artist – Caravaggio's David With The Head Of Goliath

The Caravaggio David with the Head of Goliath 1610 masterpiece (or 1605 if you believe other analysts) was one of many great pieces by the Baroque artist.

He died in 1610, so this painting may have been among one of his last works. Born Michelangelo Merisi in 1571, the painter trained in Milan before making his way to Rome.

He developed a reputation not only as a fabulous painter, but also as a bit of a controversial figure, often causing fights and being notoriously moody.

His greatest legacy was to promote realism, painting his subjects in a ‘warts and all’ style. This was a change from what the world of art had known, and caused quite a stir in the 17th century.

Caravaggio David With The Head Of Goliath Analysis and Meaning

History David with a Head of a Goliath Caravaggio

The painting, which at a first glance looks pretty straightforward, is actually loaded with meaning. Against a dark background, David holds the decapitated head of Goliath, his sword and half-clothed body bathed in a sliver of light.

But behind this simple scene lie multiple interpretations.

  • Some analysts state the young David – who is gazing with a somewhat sympathetic gaze at the head – actually represents a young Caravaggio looking at his aged body, ravaged by his own errors.
  • Others state the young David is actually supposed to be a male lover of Caravaggio.
  • And some still claim the painting is a symbol of Christ’s victory over Satan.

We will let you decide for yourself when you see it!

Those who argue for the theory that the picture depicts a romantic bond between the two characters call on the special ‘look’ David is giving Goliath.

Some go further still to claim that the sword, positioned in an erect manner between David's legs, further supports their position.

visit borghese gallery travel tips Tip – If you do buy tickets for the Borghese Gallery, we recommend you ask one of the staff there what their opinion is !

What About Caravaggio David With The Head Of Goliath In Vienna?

It seems that Caravaggio had a bit of an obsession with the tale of David and Goliath – or at least he thought it was a good topic to paint.

He is known to have created at least two other paintings telling the tale, one of which can be viewed in Austria.

The David with the Head of Goliath Vienna version can be seen at the Art History Museum in Vienna.

And, here’s another fun fact. The painting hanging in the Borghese Gallery wasn’t the first one painted! The original, dating back to 1599 is actually in the Prado in Madrid.

Is There David With The Head Of Goliath Sculpture?

There are indeed quite a few sculptures with the same theme.

Our personal favorite is Bellano’s 14th century bronze masterpiece, which is a tiny version in which David’s clothes have a surprisingly cloth-like appearance, despite being made of bronze.

Another mid 15th century version exists in Florence, created by Verrocchio and commissioned by the powerful Medici family.

David Vs Goliath Art Examples

Given the fact that there are numerous examples of art featuring David and Goliath, it seems like this topic is much loved by many artists.

It is perhaps the fact that there is so much religious symbolism that can be drawn from the story that makes it a popular piece.

Here are a few of the most famous.

  • Michelangelo’s David (whilst not depicting Goliath) is one of the most iconic artworks. The `16th-century 17 foot tall naked sculpture of David is made entirely of white marble and can be viewed in Florence.
  • Caravaggio’s David With Head Of Goliaththe 1599 version – depicts David post kill and in the same style as the later Borghese version. Again, a dark scene with light illuminating David’s body, but with more action as David busies himself around the torso of Goliath.
  • Titian’s David and Goliath – Housed in the Santa Maria della Salute cathedral in Venice, this mid 16th century oil painting depicts David with his hands outstretched to the sky in prayer.

visit borghese gallery travel tips Tips – If you're fascinated by Caravaggio's art, I recommend checking out articles that delve deeper into his work, such as The Basket of Fruit and Boy With a Basket of Fruit.

Get Tickets for Visiting the Painting

Looking to put your eyes on this gruesome painting?

Then you will need to get yourself over to the Borghese Gallery during your trip to Rome.

There are lots of options for tickets and tours to this famous art collection, so to make it easy we have selected a few options for you.

  • Guided Tour with Skip The Line Tickets – For just under $50, get skip-the-line access to the museum, a qualified tour guide, and a tour of the beautiful gardens. Book Online today here.
  • Entry, Skip the Line, and a Golf Cart Tour – If you just want to check out museums and get a feel for the area, this is a more cost-friendly option that includes access (no guide) and a tour round the extensive gardens in a golf cart for around $50. Book now for your trip before it sells out here.

Opening Hours

The Borghese Gallery is usually open from 9 am to 7 pm and is always closed on Mondays.

You cannot just turn up, however, and must have an entry ticket for a time slot. The Gallery will be closed on Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Days Hours
Monday Closed
Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday & Friday 9am - 7pm
Wednesday 9am - 10pm
Thursday 9am - 9pm

Location & How to Get There?

Borghese Gallery location Rome

Take Metro Line A to Spagna so you can take a leisurely walk up the hill and through the gardens on your way to the Borghese Gallery. The museum is located at 5 Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5.


faq visit borghese gallery blog

What did David do with the head of Goliath?

David took Goliath’s head back to Jerusalem and buried it.

What medium was used by David to kill Goliath?

David killed Goliath with a sling and a pebble. Then he used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head.

When was David with the Head of Goliath painted?

The exact date is disputed, but it is believed to have been some time between 1605-1610.

Why did Caravaggio paint David with the Head of Goliath?

Rumour has it that Caravaggio painted this painting, with David looking almost sympathetically at Goliath, in a bid to seek pardon from the death penalty that had been bestowed on him prior.


Slightly gruesome, very historic, and definitely worth a look, the Caravaggio David and Goliath is a must see when you visit Rome.

Make sure you book skip-the-line tickets, however, as the Borghese Gallery can be crowded and very popular in peak periods.

About Writer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.