Scala/Firenze/Art Resource, New York, NY

A sad and tired Saul, the reluctant and tragic first king of Israel, dries his tears with a plush curtain as the shepherd-boy David consoles him with his lyre. In this moving painting, Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669) depicts the scene described in the Bible: “Whenever the [evil] spirit of God came upon Saul, David would take the lyre and play it; Saul would find relief and feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.” (1 Samuel 17:23)

Only Saul’s haunted eyes presage his fate, linked inextricably to the young David. As the narrative in 1 Samuel unfolds, Saul’s downfall occurs against the backdrop of David’s rise to power.