David Playing the Harp before Saul

ca. 1630

Oil on oakwood
Inv. No. 498

62 × 50 cm

zur  Biographie

After David defeats the giant Goliath, old King Saul is envious of his success and wants him dead. According to the Old Testament Book of Samuel, the king becomes obsessed with his jealousy and the shepherd boy must play the harp to calm him. Previously, however, Saul will throw his spear at David twice, missing both times. The focus of the depiction is the ruler’s
growing mistrust towards the figure enshrouded in darkness. At a very early stage, around 1630, Rembrandt thus exhibits his mastery in the depiction of his characters’ emotions, which he employs to fill many a history painting – many of very obscure themes – with new life.

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