The J. Paul Getty Museum

Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David

Object Details


Ahimelech Giving the Sword of Goliath to David


Aert de Gelder (Dutch, 1645 - 1727)




about 1680s


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



91.8 × 132.4 cm (36 1/8 × 52 1/8 in.)

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Object Description

The painting's subject comes from the Old Testament: the first book of Samuel, which describes the turning point in David's relationship with King Saul. The priest Ahimelech gives the sword of Goliath to the young David, who won it in battle. When King Saul learned that this symbol of power had been given to David, he had Ahimelech murdered.

The sleeve and headdress of the priest Ahimelech reveal scratches and uneven working of the pigment so it catches the light in vivid contrasting highlights. Aert de Gelder made these scratches with a paint knife or the end of a brush, which he often used to highlight the paint surface. De Gelder was a pupil of Rembrandt, and the influence of Rembrandt's late style is evident in his choice of half-length, life-size figures, muted colors, and expressive brushstrokes.

in late 1700s -

Private Collection (Dordrecht, The Netherlands)
Source: A watercolor by Jacob van Stry in the Albertina, Vienna (inv. No. 11007), is a copy of the Getty painting. The inscription indicates that Van Stry, who was also from Dordrecht, saw the picture there.

by 1942 - 1960

Mrs. Andrew R. Motion, died by 1960 [unsold, Christie's, London, June 19, 1942, lot 20; sold, Motion sale, Sotheby's, London, March 23, 1960, lot 139, through Thomas Agnew & Sons Ltd. (London, England), to J. Paul Getty.]
Source: JPGM, Paintings Department, curatorial files, email correpondence with Irene Mellis, Old Master Picture Department, Christie's London, October 10, 2000.

1960 - 1976

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

The J. Paul Getty Collection (June 29 to September 3, 1972)
  • The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis), June 29 to September 3, 1972
The Visible World: Painting During the Golden Age in Dordrecht (November 29, 1992 to February 28, 1993)
  • Dordrechts Museum (Dordrecht), November 29, 1992 to February 28, 1993
The Glory of the Golden Age (April 15 to September 17, 2000)
  • Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), April 15 to September 17, 2000

Lilienfeld, Karl. Arent de Gelder: Sein Leben und seine Kunst (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1914), p. 170, no. 128.

Christie's, London. Ancient and Modern Pictures and Drawings. June 19, 1942, p. 5, lot 20.

Sotheby's, London. Fine Old Master Paintings and Drawings. March 23, 1960, p. 50, lot 139.

"Gelder, Aart de." Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des peintres, sculpteurs, dessinateurs et graveurs de tous les temps et de tous les pays. Emmanuel Bénézit et al., eds. Rev. ed. (Paris: Gründ, 1966), vol. 4, p. 196.

Fossen, David Raymond van. "The Paintings of Aert de Gelder." Ph.D. diss. (Harvard University, 1969), vol. 1, p. 262, no. 60, fig. 63.

The J. Paul Getty Collection, exh. cat. (Minneapolis: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1972), unpaginated, no. 30, ill., cover ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B., et al. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 56.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 71.

Sumowski, Werner. Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler in vier Bänden. 6 vols. (Landau: Edition PVA, 1983), vol. 2, p. 1167, no. 752, ill.

Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), p. 141.

Hecht, Peter. "Het veranderende beeld Nederlandse schilderkunst in Washington en Malibu." Kunstschrift 34, no. 5 (September-October 1990), p. 29, fig. 23, ill.

Marijnissen, Peter, et al., eds. De Zichtbaere werelt: schilderkunst uit de Gouden Eeuw in Hollands oudste stad, exh. cat. (Dordrecht: Dordrechts Museum, with Waanders, 1992), pp. 30, 177-78, no. 39, ill.

Moltke, J. W. von. Arent de Gelder, Dordrecht 1645 - 1727. Kristin L. Belkin, ed. (Doornspijk: Davaco, 1994), pp. 31, 41, 70, no. 20, pls. 11, 20.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 48, ill.

Brown, Christopher. "Arent de Gelder: Dordrecht and Cologne." Burlington Magazine 141, no. 1152 (March 1999), p. 186.

Kiers, Judikje, and Fieke Tissink. The Glory of the Golden Age: Dutch Art of the 17th Century. Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Art, exh. cat. Bart Cornelis and Jan Piet Filedt Kok, eds. (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, with Waanders, 2000), pp. 218-19, 338, no. 149, ill.

Kiers, Judikje, and Fieke Tissink. The Golden Age of Dutch Art: Painting, Sculpture, Decorative Art, exh. cat. Bart Cornelis and Jan Piet Filedt Kok, eds. (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, with Thames & Hudson, 2000), pp. 218-19, 338, no. 149, ill.

Borkopp-Restle, Birgitt. Textile Schätze aus Renaissance und Barock aus den Sammlungen des Bayerischen Nationalmuseums; mit grossen Freuden, Triumph und Köstlichkeit, exh. cat. (Munich: Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, 2002), p. 32, ill.

Sluiter, Guus. "Arent de Gelder." In Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon (Munich: Saur, 1992-), vol. 51 (2006), p. 176.

Fredericksen, Burton B. The Burdens of Wealth: Paul Getty and His Museum (Bloomington: Archway Publishing, 2015), p. 188.