The young hero David, who killed Goliath with his slingshot and then cut off his head, is a legendary figure. The Biblical story is a glorious episode in the struggle of the people of Israel, under King Saul, against the Philistines, invaders from across the sea. A musician and a poet, David would marry Saul's daughter and become, in turn, king of Israel.
With its power and style, Delaunay's picture drew considerable critical attention at the 1874 Salon: physically very vigorous, its subject troubles us with his almost androgynous face and somewhat man-
nered hipshot pose. It may have been inspired by Hellenistic sculpture, the famous statues by Michelangelo and Donatello, or quite simple male nudes painted by the artist when he was in Rome with Degas, Bonnat and Gustave Moreau.
Moreau's influence can be seen in the choice of luminously bright colours and, above all, the tonal unreality of the sfumato of blue mountain ranges given a near-geometrical treatment.
While eclectic in its references, stylistically speaking the work is astonishingly modern.
This drawing is the most fascinating of Delaunay's many preliminary studies for what was to be a major painting. In his defiant pose – right arm raised, left hand holding a long staff across the shoulder – the young hero seems more meditative than in the final version. The head turned to the right directs our gaze elsewhere, whereas in the finished work David is looking directly at the viewer, armed with his unsheathed sword and his slingshot.
- David Triumphant
- S.D.B.R: JElie Delaunay
- 147 x 114 cm
- Purchased 1882
- Inv. 917