David with the Head of Goliath

Domenico Fetti

Photo: UMJ/N. Lackner

Domenico Fetti (c. 1589 – 1623)

David with the Head of Goliath

Oil on canvas

Inv. no. 603

Role models – praise of virtue


The roles of all social classes are enshrined in the ideal society of the early modern period. Regents and the Church expect obedient subjects. Ideal behaviour is taught and preached, art depicts virtuous heroes as role models, provided by the ancient and religious tradition. Bold action, selfless devotion and steadfast endurance characterise the heroes from antiquity and the Bible, but also, of course, the good subject. Without complaining, they submit to the will of the highest authority.


Young David is the epitome of the biblical hero. Barely armed, he defeats the vastly superior Goliath. David’s victory combines courage and cunning in exemplary fashion. His achievement elevates him to a leading figure who transcends time. Despite some wrongdoings, he is considered a virtuous hero par excellence.

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