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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.


Currently Off View


Prints and Drawings


Lucas van Leyden


David Playing the Harp Before Saul


Netherlands (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Engraving in black on ivory laid paper


Image: 25.3 × 18.3 cm (10 × 7 1/4 in.); Sheet, trimmed within platemark: 25.4 × 18.4 cm (10 × 7 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Elizabeth Hammond Stickney Collection

Reference Number


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