Mercy: David Spareth Saul's Life

Object Details

Title:

Mercy: David Spareth Saul's Life

Artist/Maker(s):

Richard Dadd (British, 1817 - 1886)

Culture:

English

Date:

1854

Medium:

Oil on canvas

Dimensions:

61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)

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King David exemplified mercy and self-restraint in preventing his companion Abishai from killing the sleeping King Saul (1 Samuel 26: 5-10). The simple, dramatic composition and statuesque main figures give this small, slightly eerie, moonlit scene a monumental quality. Yet the rhythm from the flowing movement and patterns of the garments enlivens the rocky desert setting and prevents the composition from being purely static.

Richard Dadd's lightened palette, fascination with detail, and interest in decorative patterning typify mid-1800s English painting. For authenticity, Dadd selected motifs from Egyptian wall reliefs, Roman sculpture, his own memories, and possibly his own travel sketches of the desert and cliffs near the Dead Sea.

To show this Old Testament subject, rarely seen in Victorian painting, Dadd mixed historical events, modern passions, and perhaps personal associations. After delusions led him to kill his father in 1843, he continued making art while confined to a mental hospital. Thinking that Dadd might cultivate David's moral virtues as an antidote to his own murderous compulsions, his doctor may even have suggested this subject.

Provenance
1854 - 1870

Possibly Sir Charles Hood [sold, Christie's, London, March 28, 1870, lot 331, to Holl], possibly acquired from the artist, 1854.

1870 -

Possibly Holl

- 1961

Mrs. Clifton (London, England)

1961 -

K. J. Hewett (London, England)

before 1968 -

Mrs. R. Frank (London, England)

- 1971

Mr. Charles Handley-Read, 1916 - 1971 (London, England)

- 1971

and Mrs. Lavinia (Stainton) Handley-Read, died 1971 (London, England), probably by inheritance to her brother, Thomas Stainton.

by 1974 - 1985

Thomas Stainton, 1918 - 1985, by inheritance to his son, 1985.

1985 - 1986

son of Thomas Stainton

1986 - 1987

Fine Art Society Ltd. (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1987.

Exhibitions
Loan Exhibition of Victorian Painting, 1837-1887, in Aid of the Victorian Society (November 22 to December 16, 1961)
  • Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., (London), November 22 to December 16, 1961, (Cat. 43)
Romantic Art in Britain: Paintings and Drawings, 1760-1860 (January 9 to April 21, 1968)
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts, (Detroit), January 9 to February 18, 1968, (Cat. 203)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art, (Philadelphia), March 14 to April 21, 1968, (Cat. 203)
Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art: The Handley-Read Collection (March 4 to April 30, 1972)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), March 4 to April 30, 1972, (Cat. B122)
The Paintings, Water-colours and Drawings from the Handley-Read Collection (June 11 to June 28, 1974)
  • Fine Art Society Ltd., (London), June 11 to June 28, 1974, (Cat. 26)
The Late Richard Dadd, 1817-1886 (June 19, 1974 to January 5, 1975)
  • Tate Britain, (London), June 19 to August 18, 1974, (Cat. 123)
  • Ferens Art Gallery, (Hull), September 21 to October 20, 1974, (Cat. 123)
  • Municipal Art Gallery Wolverhampton, October 26 to November 24, 1974, (Cat. 123)
  • Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, (Bristol), November 30, 1974 to January 5, 1975, (Cat. 123)
Bibliography

Christie, Manson & Woods, London. Catalogue of the Choice Collection of Water-colour Drawings, Pictures, & Engravings, Formed by the Late T. S. Cafe, Esq. [...]. March 26 and 28, 1870, p. 26, lot 331.

Loan Exhibition of Victorian Painting, 1837-1887, in Aid of the Victorian Society, exh. cat. (London: Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1961), p. 30, no. 43.

Rickett, John. "Rd. Dadd, Bethlem and Broadmoor: An Attempt at a Biography." Ivory Hammer 2 (1963-64), unpaginated.

Cummings, Frederick, and Allen Staley. Romantic Art in Britain: Paintings and Drawings, 1760-1860, exh. cat. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1968), p. 287, no. 203, ill., entry by Allen Staley.

Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Art: The Handley-Read Collection, exh. cat. (London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1972), pp. 39-40, no. B122, ill.

Greysmith, David. Richard Dadd: The Rock and Castle of Seclusion (London: Studio Vista, 1973), pp. 80, 82, 86, 124, 177, 181, pl. 70.

Allderidge, Patricia. Richard Dadd (London: Academy Editions; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1974), pp. 60, 103-4, no. 54, ill.

Fuller, Peter. "Richard Dadd: A Psychological Interpretation." Connoisseur 186, no. 749 (July 1974), p. 176.

The Paintings, Water-colours and Drawings from the Handley-Read Collection, exh cat. (London: Fine Art Society, 1974), unpaginated, no. 26, ill.

Roberts, Keith. Review of The Late Richard Dadd, 1817-1886. London, Hull, Wolverhampton, Bristol. The Burlington Magazine 116, no. 857 (August 1974), p. 488, fig. 104.

Allderidge, Patricia. The Late Richard Dadd, 1817-1886, exh. cat. (London: Tate Gallery, 1974), pp. 30, 34, 35, 77, 85, 93, 100, 107, 118, 126, no. 123, ill.

Spring 1987, exh. cat. (London: Fine Art Society, 1987), unpaginated, no. 5, ill.

"Acquisitions/1987." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), pp. 155-56, no. 20, ill.

Lippincott, Louise. "Murder and the Fine Arts; or, a Reassessment of Richard Dadd." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 16 (1988), pp. 75-94, fig. 1.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 31, ill.

Tromans, Nicholas. Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum (London: Tate Publishing, 2011), pp. 100-01, fig. 51.