BRAY, Jan de
(b. ca. 1627, Haarlem, d. 1697, Haarlem)

David Playing the Harp

Oil on canvas, 142 x 154 cm
Private collection

Jan de Bray - a son and probably also a pupil of the painter and architect Salomon de Bray - was one of the most important representatives of Classicism in Haarlem. Although he mainly painted portraits, he was also a very skilled history painter. De Bray could immerse himself totally in a story, and this enabled him to capture historical scenes on canvas in a highly original way.

A good example of one of his successful history paintings is David Playing the Harp. David, King of Israel, can be identified by the crown, the harp he plays and his white linen garment as described in the Bible. As he plays, he raises his eyes to heaven. It is just possible to see the Ark of the Covenant being borne in behind him. The Ark, a magnificently decorated chest, contained the Jews' holy objects. The Philistines had captured it, but it brought them so much misfortune that they longed to be rid of it. Here David and 'all the Israelites' bear the Ark back to Jerusalem, accompanied by 'shouting and blowing of trumpets' (II Samuel 6).