David and Abigail
This scene is drawn from the Old Testament of the Bible, I Samuel 25. It depicts the wise and beautiful Abigail offering David a gift of copious goods, which her churlish husband Nabal had denied him, specifically the moments in verses 23 and 27: “And when Abigail saw David, she made haste, and alighted from her ass, and fell before David.… And [she said] now this present which thy servant hath brought, unto my lord, let it be given unto the young men that follow my lord.” When Nabal learned of his wife’s furtive deed, “his heart died within him”, freeing her to marry David.
The artist of this large painting almost certainly is Erasmus Quellinus II (1607– 78), a well-educated Flemish painter and draughtsman who joined the artists’ guild in Antwerp in 1632.1 During the 1630s he was an important collaborator of Peter Paul Rubens, whose work had a profound influence on his own style. Following Rubens’ death in 1640, he became the official painter of Antwerp. Wealthy at the time of his death, he owned paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, and other prominent artists, as well as many sculptures, prints, and drawings.
Like Quellinus II’s 'Reconciliation of Jacob and Esau and Jephta Greeted by his Daughter', which share many features with
David and Abigail, the Tata canvas probably was painted during the earlier 1630s. All three reflect the design and sumptuous staging of a 'David and Abigail' executed in Rubens’ studio a decade earlier (J. Paul Getty Museum). Quellinus II’s 'David and Abigail' in turn was the source of a later copy and a variant.
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection
Erasmus Quellinus II (1607–78)
Oil on canvas
17th century CE
c. 184 x 258 cm