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Francois de Nome, Samuel Anointing Saul (c. 1625-1650)

For Artwork in Focus we explore individual artworks, critiquing their style and discussing their socio-political context. Today we look at Samuel Anointing Saul (1625-1650) by Francois de Nome.

About the Work

Title : Samuel Anointing Saul
Artist : Francois de Nome
Year : 1625-1650
Medium : Oil on canvas
Dimensions : 118 x 152 cm (46 7/16 x 59 13/16 in.)
Location : Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Samuel and Saul

According to the Hebrew Bible, Saul was the first king of Israel, as anointed by Samuel, the prophet.

The scene as painted by de Nome is set in a strange, eerie setting. A sense of eeriness if further added by the fact that it seems as if Saul and Samuel are not alone. An army of inanimate sculptures and carvings look on as witnesses to the scene. There is an air of dreadfulness, and almost as a bad omen, smokey clouds loom over the space. Further, the painting has been rendered in muted sepia tones.

Regarding the legacy and influence of de Nome’s work, the Harvard Art Museums’ digital catalogue states :

“By building up the sculptural figures with dense layers of white paint, the artist invites the beholder to question what is real (tactile) as opposed to depicted (seen). François de Nomé’s dreamlike architectural fantasies anticipated capriccio painting — a genre of architectural fantasy — in the next century. His work also appealed to the surrealists in the twentieth century.”

Other Details

Francois de Nome’s Samuel Anointing Saul is housed in the Harvard Art Museums in Room 2210. It is part of the museum’s collection of the West Arcade.


To learn more about iconic artworks and their socio-political context, visit Artwork in Focus.

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