Rembrandt van Rijn

Saul and David

Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David
Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David
Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David
Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David
Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David

Rembrandt van Rijn
Saul and David

c. 1651-1654 and c. 1655-1658 On view in Room 10

Whether this painting was a genuine Rembrandt was in doubt for many years. As a result, it has undergone extensive research and conservation treatment over the past few years. It is now back on display and the verdict is in: Saul and David is indeed a Rembrandt.

The Biblical king Saul suffers from bouts of depression and is soothed by the young David who plays the harp for him. In a particularly striking detail, Saul dries his tears on the curtain. But Saul will soon fly into a rage and throw his spear at David.

Technical details

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Rembrandt? The case Saul and David

In the Summer of 2015 Rembrandt's Saul and David was the centrepiece of the exhibition Rembrandt? The Case of Saul and David. Through four interactive lectures, visitors could follow the fascinating discoveries of the research team that worked on the restoration. Take a look behind the layers of paint and unravel the mysteries of the case of Saul and David yourself.

Rembrandt van Rijn  Saul en David

Rembrandt van Rijn
Saul and David

c. 1651-1654 and c. 1655-1658 On view in Room 10

Upwards

For many years this was one of the Mauritshuis’s most famous Rembrandts − until 1969, when doubts were raised as to whether Rembrandt had actually painted it. The picture has since been thoroughly researched and restored, and it has been established that it really was painted by the master. He worked on it between 1651 and 1654 and finished it later, probably between 1655 and 1658.

On the left sits King Saul, who wears a colourful turban and holds a spear. The young David, playing a harp, kneels on the right. The subject is taken from the Old Testament (I Samuel 18: 9–11). Saul, who was plagued by black moods, found comfort in David’s harp playing. But over the years, as David was victorious in the struggle against the Philistines, Saul became jealous and threw a spear at him. David managed to dodge it in time, but the friendship between them was at an end. Rembrandt showed the moment immediately before Saul threw the spear. The gesture with which Saul dries his eye on the curtain is extraordinary; as if, overcome by grief, he grabbed the first thing to hand. Original ideas like this, taken from life, are typical of Rembrandt.

The painting has not survived unscathed over time. In the nineteenth century the figures of Saul and David were cut apart and then reunited, at which time a large piece of canvas was added above David’s head. The red brushstrokes in Saul’s cloak, which were painted unusually freely and broadly, were originally probably less striking and covered with a semi-transparent top layer.

(this text was previously published in: E. Runia et al, Mauritshuis: Highlights of the Collection, The Hague 2017, pp. 52-53)

Details

General information
Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam)
Saul and David
c. 1651-1654 and c. 1655-1658
painting
621
Room 10
Material and technical details
oil
canvas
164.5 x 130 cm

Provenance

Victor de Riquet, Duke of Caraman, Paris, before 1830; Didot de Saint-Marc Collection, Paris, 1835-1863; Alphonse Audry, Paris, 1863-1869; [Alexis-Joseph] Febure, Paris, c.1870; Durand-Ruel Gallery, Paris; Albert, Baron von Oppenheim, Cologne, 1876; Philippe George, Ay near Epernay, before 1890; Durand-Ruel Gallery, Paris, 1890-1898; Abraham Bredius, The Hague, 1898-1946 (on long-term loan to the Mauritshuis since 1898); bequest of Abraham Bredius, 1946