Arent de Gelder 1645 – 1727

Ahimelech giving Goliath's sword to David

oil on canvas (90 × 132 cm) — c. 1680 Museum J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Arent de Gelder biography

This work is linked to 1 Samuel 21:9

Tags: David

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Ahimelech was a priest in the city of Nob, where the unarmed David had just arrived. The priest gave the sword of Goliath to David, who had won it in battle with the Philistine giant. The sword was widely seen as a symbol of power. When king Saul heard of all this, he had Ahimelech and many other priests killed for helping David.

To be more precise: 85 priests were killed, and all other citizens of Nob, including women and children. Remember that this is the Old Testament: no half measures.

This is a subject that has only rarely been depicted in art. De Gelder borrowed it from a series of engravings on David by Philips Galle.

Just like his master Rembrandt De Gelder used a knife or the back of his brush to scratch the paint, in order to create contrasting highlights. It can be seen very well in the priest's hairdress. Other influences of Rembrandt are the dark colours and half-length figures.

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