ROSA, Salvator
(b. 1615, Arenella, d. 1673, Roma)

The Shade of Samuel Appears to Saul

Oil on canvas, 275 x 191 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

The story is taken from the Old Testament ((I Sam. 28). On the eve of a battle with the Philistines, Saul, the king of Israel feeling himself forsaken by God in a critical hour, consulted a necromancer, the witch of Endor, to know what the future held. He commanded her to call up the spirit of the prophet Samuel who, during his lifetime, had been Saul's mentor and the grey eminence behind the throne. Samuel, the last Judge of the Israelites, had himself anointed Saul as their first king. In a cantankerous mood at being recalled from the Shades, Samuel foretold the worst, that neither Saul nor his sons would survive the morrow. In the ensuing battle his three sons were slain and Saul, wounded, threw himself on his own sword rather than meet death at the hands of the uncircumcised.

In Rosa's painting Saul is shown on his knees before Samuel who rises, shrouded, from the earth, while spectral monsters float in the gloom.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.