David Playing the Harp Before Saul, 1655 by Rembrandt

David Playing the Harp Before Saul was considered one of Rembrandt's most famous paintings. The deep human suffering of the tyrant king was never expressed so well as in this work. Rembrandt, the greatest master of rendering the human soul in painting, filtered out of the twenty-five-hundred-year-old story what he had to say to his own seventeenth century Holland, while at the same time he fashioned a musical solution to spiritual suffering with the use of an eternal allegory of uplifting influence of artistic beauty.

David has beaten the Philistines and is returning to the court of King Saul. The superstitious king considers David a threat to his already weakened position. We see him trying to think of a way to get rid of the young hero. At the same, he is moved by David's harp playing - Saul dries his eyes with a curtain.

The people would probably rise against him if he were to kill David. The spear in his hand is useless, although in a flash of anger he does try to kill David with it. So he promotes David to "captain over a thousand", hoping he will die in battle.

hoto of David Playing the Harp Before Saul by Rembrandt
hoto of David Playing the Harp Before Saul

In Rembrandt's painting, the old suffering king is clearly touched by David's playing. David is completely absorbed in his music.