Guido Reni (1575 – 1642) was born in Bologna, the city of the Carracci brothers, which opened one of the most important aesthetic paths of Baroque painting. A very academic painting, which would evolve to the forms of classicism, in which Reni became a master, perfectly mastering the art of drawing and proportions, so much so that this enormously successful painter became known as Guido, the Sublime.
David with the Head of Goliath by Guido Reni
There is no doubt that Reni drank from the art of Anibale Carracci and his brothers, as well as from the art ofRafael. However, he also had a very important influence on the revolutionary painting ofCaravaggio. From him he took part of his idea that everything, even the grotesque or unpleasant, could be painted with great realism. And he was also greatly influenced by the Caravaggio chiaroscuro light. Although everything went through his most personal sieve.
It is enough to compare this work of his with another image of the same theme by Caravaggio. They are almost contemporary, since Reni's work is from 1605. And they have many similarities, like that study of light, in which the entire background is dark so that the figures emerge. But they do it much more brutally in Caravaggio's painting. And although there are similarities, there are also many differences.
Starting with the attitude. Here we see aProud David, almost princely, both in his pose and in that peculiar outfit based on a fur cloak and the red cap with a huge orange feather that he wears, some tones that certainly attract attention. It is true that everything is painted with very realistic dyes, but allied with academic forms, without concessions to the horrible and yes with a lot of grace. In fact, in this spirit we can say that it is a work more steeped in the Renaissance idea of the David of Donatello than in the baroque works of Caravaggio.
The hero, that shepherd who with a simple slingshot defeated the giant Goliath with a stone, here he is already in a victorious pose, like a thoughtful dandy, contemplating his already slaughtered victim. But he does not convey the idea of violence, but rather that of triumph.
The quality of Reni's art is undeniable. You can see these and other influences, but he knows how to dominate them and take them to his own style, based on a prodigious drawing and a very special mastery of light. In short, an author with a very fruitful career in his time and whose works today are scattered around museums around the world. This one in particular of David with the head of Goliath is in the Uffizi Museum in Florence.