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The Shade of Samuel Invoked by Saul
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Bernardo Cavallino
Italian, about 1650 - 1656
Oil on copper
24 x 34 in.
83.PC.365

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Dressed in full royal attire, a brightly illuminated King Saul points to his chest. He wears a shiny breastplate, a cloak of vibrant red, and a crown upon his head. Saul kneels before the ghost of Samuel, the last Judge of the Israelites. Silhouetted against the bright light that emanates from the doorway, Samuel's skin is ashen and gray. He leans towards Saul with an intense and penetrating gaze indicating troubled concern. Between the two figures, the Witch of Endor also leans forward to look fearfully at the kneeling king.

Bernardo Cavallino depicted an episode from the Bible when King Saul, about to enter into battle with the Philistines, asked the Witch of Endor to summon the ghost of Samuel, who had recently died. In an irritable mood at having been summoned, Samuel told Saul that the next day the Philistines would defeat Israel and that Saul and his sons would die in battle. Cavallino was able to convey eloquently the emotional interaction among the three figures as Samuel relayed this news.

Cavallino applied the paint with rapid, sketchy strokes, allowing the hammered copper's warm tones to glow through the thinly brushed paint in sections of the drapery and background.

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