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David with the head of Goliath
17th Century
David with the head of Goliath
[Davide e Golia (n.inv. 689)]
c 1625
oil on canvas
120 x 90 cm  [HxW]
Museo Civico (Palazzo dei Musei), Varallo

Antonio d’Enrico, called Tanzio da Varallo, was born in about 1580 into a family of painters who had worked for many generations in Lombardy and Piedmont. His father gave him his initial art education and, before he left for Rome, he made his debut works with his brother, also a painter, for the 1600 Jubilee in the province of Vercelli.

Not much is known about his stay in Rome, although he was certainly able to see the works of Caravaggio. These works left a tangible impression on him, as can be seen in the paintings he made for Naples and Abruzzo in the first fifteen years of the 17th century.

Back north by 1616, Tanzio worked on the Sacro Monte of Varallo, where his frescoes reveal his dramatic and anguished interpretation of religious subjects, as well as in several churches in Piedmont and Lombardy.

After carrying out some important commissions in Milan, Tanzio came into contact with the works of the great Lombard Mannerists: Morazzone in particular, but also Cerano and Procaccini, whose “difficult”, intellectual painting he adopted, blending it with Caravaggio’s naturalism.

This David with the Head of Goliath is possibly the most famous version of a subject the artist repeated a number of times in different compositions, all of them the result of extreme moral exactitude and great austerity of concept.

With its blend of naturalistic elements and an “almost heroic classicism” derived from Milanese painters, this work can be dated to the mid-1620s.

Laura Lanzeni

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