This image focuses on the face of Goliath in Antonin Mercie’s sculpture, “David.” Goliath’s expression is filled with shock and horror at his defeat. David is very young in the sculpture, and here his foot rests gently upon Goliath’s head, as if to keep it from rolling away while he sheathes his sword. This gesture is full serenity and disgrace; David’s tiny foot gloats his victory. That serenity maximizes the terror in Goliath’s expression. He has been defeated by the unexpected.
Goliath’s face in this image is not ugly or grotesque but classically beautiful, crowned with great tumbling curls. He looks patriarchal, similar to Michelangelo’s Moses, which begs the question: Who does Mercie see when he sees Goliath? This sculpture was done in the earlier years of the Third Republic of France, shortly after the Franco-Prussian war. It can therefore be read as celebrating a victory over Imperialism in Europe.
The story of David and Goliath has become a myth in the Western consciousness of the triumph of minorities against an oppressive system. We must ask: Who are our Davids and Goliaths? We may be expecting to sheathe a sword but end up with a gash in our foreheads. Or we may be equipped with the strength to defeat oppression if we accept it. -- Andrea Thornton