Saul and the Witch of Endor thumbnail 1
Saul and the Witch of Endor thumbnail 2
Not currently on display at the V&A

Saul and the Witch of Endor

Oil Painting
late 18th century (painted)
Place of origin

Painting of Saul and the Witch of Endor, a scene from Samuel, Book 1, Chapter 28. King Saul visits the Witch of Endor and is confronted by the ghost of Samuel.

Object details

Object type
TitleSaul and the Witch of Endor (generic title)
Materials and techniques
Oil on canvas
Brief description
Oil painting, 'Saul and the Witch of Endor', after Benjamin West, late 18th century
Physical description
Painting of Saul and the Witch of Endor, a scene from Samuel, Book 1, Chapter 28. King Saul visits the Witch of Endor and is confronted by the ghost of Samuel.
  • Estimate height: 16.25in
  • Estimate width: 23.25in
Dimensions taken from Summary catalogue of British Paintings, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973
Credit line
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce
Object history
Bequeathed by Rev. Alexander Dyce, 1869
The Reverend Alexander Dyce :
South Kensington Museum Art Handbooks. The Dyce and Forster Collections. With Engravings and Facsimiles. Published for the Committee of Council on Education by Chapman and Hall, Limited, 193, Piccadilly, London. 1880. Chapter I. Biographical Sketch of Mr. Dyce. pp.1-12, including 'Portrait of Mr. Dyce' illustrated opposite p.1.

Science and Art Department of the Committee of Council on Education, South Kensington Museum.A Catalogue of the Paintings, Miniatures, Drawings... Bequeathed by The Reverend Alexander Dyce. London, 1874. A 'Note' on page v comments, 'This catalogue refers to the Art portion of the Collection bequeathed to the South Kensington Museum by the Reverend Alexander Dyce, the well-known Shakespearian scholar, who died May 15, 1869'. The Catalogue. Paintings, Miniatures, &c. by Samuel Redgrave notes of the 'Oil Paintings', 'The strength of Mr. Dyce's valuable bequest to Department of Science and Art does not lie in [this] portion ... which is in its nature of a very miscellaneous character. The collection was made apparently as objects offered themselves, and without any special design.' Dyce's main interest was in literary subjects, and this is reflected in many of the paintings he bequeathed to the V&A.

Historical significance: See Departmental Artist's File for B. West. This contains a letter dated July 11, 1960 from Helmut von Erffa (Prof. of Art, Rutgers, the State University, USA ) to Jonathan Mayne (Deputy Keeper of the Department of Paintings) concerning a number of paintings in the V&A attributed to West. Mayne had asked in a previous letter for Erffa to comment on whether "our Saul and the Witch of Endor as autograph?". Mayne noted that "I find that it was engraved in 1788 by William Sharp in almost exactly the same dimensions, which proves nothing, of course, but suggests that it might have been copied from the engraving. Sharp's engraving was dedicated to Daniel Dulby, a collector who may have owned the original painting." Erffa replied, "I am afraid you are correct in assuming that your B. West 'Witch of Endor' is indeed a copy after the engraving. At first I thought it might be West's copy for the engraving but after comparing the signed version in Hartfield, Conn., I cannot bring myself to accept the V&A version as an original. It is not clear enough in bringing out the roundness of Saul's figure or the light and dark relationships of the figures on the right. Of course, much could be due to the condition of the picture. The expression in the eyes of the figures on the right and left also seems to point to a copyist. Of course, without having seen it I do not want to be too dogmatic, but when west copied himself for the engraver, he was always extremely careful in his details."
Bibliographic reference
Evans, Mark et al. Vikutoria & Arubāto Bijutsukan-zō : eikoku romanshugi kaigaten = The Romantic tradition in British painting, 1800-1950 : masterpieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum. Japan : Brain Trust, 2002 no.3
Accession number

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Record createdApril 18, 2007
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