The Plague in the Reign of King David
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Sold by the Art Institute of Chicago
Paris 1648 - 1729
The Plague in the Reign of King David
oil on canvas
canvas: 101 ⅜ by 127 ¼ in.; 257.5 by 323.2 cm.
framed: 117 3/8 by 143 1/4 in.; 298.1 by 363.9 cm.
The canvas consists of 3 pieces joined vertically and is lined and stable on its stretcher. The image reads well beneath the varnish with bold colors and shadows retained. The canvas seams are barely visible to the naked eye and not distracting. No repairs are obvious to the naked eye when the painting is viewed as a whole, but on close looking, some repairs are visible as differences in texture and some retouching has slightly discolored in scattered areas which is to be expected and it is not distracting. Under UV inspection, repairs and retouching are scattered throughout: a horizontal repaired tear at the shoulder of the leftmost figure measures about 8 inches, there are scattered repairs along the bottom edge, spots of retouching in the shadows of the figures’ costumes, and a repair above the skull held by the angel, among others. Given the size of this work, this level of retouching is relatively minimal and is to be expected and not a concern. Due to the size, we recommend contacting a trusted restorer if you wish to undertake any work on this painting, though it can certainly also hang in its present state. Offered in a decoratively carved giltwood frame.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
In 1606, Marie de Medici invited the Brother Hospitallers of St. John of God to found the Hôpital de la Charité on the boulevard Saint-Germain, where it stood until 1935. Doctors there made strides in French medicine in the late 18th century such as bedside care focused on symptoms rather than the theory of the four humors. Vernansal was commissioned by the hospital in the last quarter of that century to paint this monumental Old Testament scene with its themes of disease and healing.
2 Samuel 24 recounts King David's arrogance and desire for power while taking a census ordered by God. Filled with remorse for his pride, he asks God for a punishment, and God gives three options: three years of famine, three months of fleeing from enemies, or three days of plague. David chose the latter, as he feared other men more than a merciful God. After 70,000 people perished in three days, an angel came to destroy Jerusalem, as seen here holding a skull and sword of fire, but God stopped the angel's hand. David pled for mercy and was instructed to build an altar to God. In its setting at L'Hôpital de la Charité, the painting would have communicated that faith helps heal and prevent disease.