An admired Romantic painter, Decamps was essentially a self-taught artist. A forerunner of Orientalism, he visited Asia Minor and North Africa as early as 1828, before his famous friend Delacroix. He will influence an entire generation of travelling artists. Decamps was honoured with a retrospective — alongside Delacroix and Ingres — at the Universal Exposition held in Paris in 1855.
The first king of Israel, Saul, pursues with murderous jealousy his young champion, David. Yet, at the end of the long manhunt, David would assume command of the rebels and become the nation’s second king. The moment depicted here is the showdown. One night, from the top of a far-off mountain, David called out to Saul and the army who had come to hunt him down in the wilderness of Ziph. Decamps painted several historical landscapes in the same vein, in which the story was subordinated to a grandiose, solidly composed natural setting with infinite vistas swept by dramatic chiaroscuro effects.