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.
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)
Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden 1606 - 1669 Amsterdam)
Saul and David
c. 1651-1654 и c. 1655-1658
Сведения о материале и технике
130 x 164.5 cm
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
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