The Triumph of David
In the Triumph of David, Poussin takes as his starting point two texts from the Book of Samuel, creating one of his most theatrical and elegant compositions. An ancient temple provides the architectural backdrop against which the action is staged. Above the podium of the temple, rhythmically interspersed between the fluted columns, men and women rejoice at David's triumphal entry. A crowd of spectators occupies the foreground and witnesses the event; a woman indicates David to her son, a man points to his forehead showing the exact location of the wound on Goliath's head. The central procession takes place between the two wings of people. Two men, playing trumpets, precede the biblical hero. Young David holds the impaled head of the Philistine giant and marches in front of a general riding a white horse, most likely King Saul. The entire scene is carefully arranged. Groups of three to four figures punctuate the composition, and the colours of their outfits - pale azure, rich mustard yellow, jade green - provide the chromatic structure of the painting. Poussin stages the figures overlapping in a meticulously orchestrated arrangement. The only isolated character is the main actor, David, who stands out in his fiery robe, highlighted by the sudden interval created, almost as if by accident, by the unyielding crowds. The dating of the canvas is highly debated. X-ray analysis shows that the composition was changed several times, both in the background architecture and in the foreground figures. While scholars have believed this proves a particularly long gestation for the painting (from the mid 1620s to the early 1630s) it is more likely that the Triumph of David did not necessarily remain in Poussin's workshop over several years but, instead, was probably carefully worked out in the early 1630s until the artist was happy with the final composition.