The Triumph of David
One of the earliest masterpieces by the French artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665), this painting captures David’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem after defeating the Philistines’ champion Goliath. In this story from the Christian tradition, told in the Bible’s Old Testament Book of Samuel, the young shepherd boy David outwitted the eight-foot giant Goliath by striking his forehead with a well-aimed stone shot from his sling.
The cheering crowd that meets David upon his return is almost audible and provides the artist with the opportunity to explore the theatrical language of human gesture from numerous angles. This ranges from the solemn thanksgiving of an old man and the joyful abandon of young women with their arms held high, to the incomprehension of small children as they nestle and play in their mothers' arms.
An X-ray of the canvas shows that Poussin reworked the composition several times during the course of the painting’s production, both in the background architecture and in the foreground figures, before finally settling on this arrangement.