Saul and the Witch of Endor

Media - 1966.48.1 - SAAM-1966.48.1_1 - 50933
Copied William Sidney Mount, Saul and the Witch of Endor, 1828, oil on canvas, 3648 in. (91.3122.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of International Business Machines Corporation, 1966.48.1
Free to use

Artwork Details

Saul and the Witch of Endor
3648 in. (91.3122.0 cm)
lower right in black oil: Painted by W. S. Mount. / 1828 lower right in white oil: PAINTED BY WILLIAM S. MOUNT./1828. (written on top of signature in black oil) stretcher in black oil: #95
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
Mediums Description
oil on canvas
  • Group
  • Figure group — male
  • Landscape — time — night
  • State of being — phenomenon — vision
  • State of being — emotion — fear
  • Religion — Old Testament — Saul
  • Religion — Old Testament — Witch of Endor
Object Number

Artwork Description

William Sidney Mount created only a few paintings based on historical and literary scenes. This piece illustrates a passage from the Old Testament, in which Saul sought help from an oracle before going to war with the Philistines. The witch summoned the spirit of the prophet Samuel so that Saul could ask him for advice. In this painting, Saul and his men cower in horror as the ghost comes forward to speak to them (1 Samuel 28). This episode was familiar to nineteenth-century audiences who had been raised on scripture.