Antonio del Castillo y Saavedra
David und Goliath, 1646 - 1655
When he subdued Goliath-the bellicose leader of the Philistines who had taunted the Israelites for days, David “was a young man, ruddy, and of a comely countenance” (I Samuel 17:42).
Antonio del Castillo had drawn the triumphal moment of David's victory over Goliath (I Samuel 17:49–51) a number of times. In this sheet the young man leans against a large stone in front of a tree. David's shadow blends directly into the tree behind him, parallel to his back, which clearly expresses his right to domination, as the tree branches form a kind of baldachin above his head. In front of his outstretched right leg and foot lies the corpse of Goliath, whose muscular arm reaches toward his severed head, which lies behind David's left heel. The future king holds the Philistine's huge sword-nearly as large as David himself-upright between himself and the defeated warrior, from whose neck the blood still flows. With his lowered head and gentle expression, David appears to be reflecting on what he has just accomplished—and its consequences.
With pride and superiority equaling David's, the artist wrote at a diagonal across the center of the sheet: “So that he might never again deny it, and know that it is by me. Ant de el Castillo Saave[dra].” David seems to be looking directly at the compact signature, which appears at the very center of the drawing. August Mayer (1918) produced a convincing explanation for this highly unusual gesture: with this inscription Castillo was defending himself against doubts about his authorship of a painting of David's triumph over Goliath that is now at the Yale University Art Gallery (inv. 1991.139.1). Juan Luis Zambrano had produced a smaller version of this Castillo composition (now in the Museo de Bellas Artes de Córdoba, inv. CE2166P), which had led to frequent doubts about Castillo's authorship of the larger painting. Castillo's angry inscription is thus comparable to a modern “copyright."
This red-chalk drawing was executed with a sure hand, and it shares certain features with Immaculate Conception (inv. no. 52434, cat. no. 20); for example, the soft hands, the shape and type of the leaves, and also the hatching, all of which suggest it may be from around the same date. On the basis of Castillo's signature, Benito Navarrete Prieto and Fuensanta García de la Torre dated this sheet to 1646-55.
1 Regarding the drawings on this subject, see Navarrete Prieto and García de la Torre 2008, 180–89. The sheet on the same subject at the Musée du Louvre in Paris (inv. no. RF29774) is currently attributed to a Castillo successor (inv. RF 29774). See Boubli 2002, n.° 62, 77.
2 Regarding the usage of signatures, see Hellwig 2011, 43-44, in which she studies a second unusual Castillo inscription: on one of his paintings he wrote “Non fecit Alfar” as a way of distancing himself from Juan de Alfaro's signature style.
3 Both paintings are reproduced in Navarrete Prieto and García de la Torre 2008, 178, figs. 1 and 2.
4 Mayer 1918, 116.
5 Roettig, Stefes, and Stolzenburg 2001, 200.
6 Navarrete Prieto and García de la Torre 2008, 180.