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David Playing the Harp Before Saul

A work made of engraving in black on ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of engraving in black on ivory laid paper.


c. 1508


Lucas van Leyden
Netherlandish, c. 1494-1533

About this artwork

According to the Book of Samuel, an “evil spirit from the Lord” plagued King Saul, making him agitated and fearful of persecution. Because music was thought to have a therapeutic effect, the king summoned the hero and warrior David, who was renowned for his skill with the harp. In this scene of intense psychological drama, David tries to soothe the troubled king. Lucas van Leyden reveals Saul’s fragile mental state by portraying him sitting stiffly hunched in a chair, tightly clenching a spear in one fist and arching his right foot over his left. David’s pleasing performances would eventually lead to him succeeding Saul as the king of Israel.

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Prints and Drawings


Lucas van Leyden


David Playing the Harp Before Saul






Engraving in black on ivory laid paper


253 × 183 mm (image); 254 × 184 mm (sheet, trimmed within platemark)

Credit Line

Elizabeth Hammond Stickney Collection

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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