Byzantine Art: Book on the David Plates, the Metropolitan Museum
A Byzantine art masterpiece: the David Plates
This beautiful and exceptionally important set of nine silver plates, dated 629 to 630, was discovered with two other silver plates in 1902 in Karavas in northern Cyprus (see Map 2). The plates were found hidden near a small horde of gold jewelry. Most of this treasure came to the Metropolitan Museum from the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan. Six of the David Plates are in the Metropolitan’s collection and are on view in the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art on the first floor (in the long corridor gallery on the right of the Grand Staircase, as approached from the Great Hall). The other three plates are in the collection of the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia, Cyprus.
In eleven scenes, David is summoned from his flock of sheep to meet the prophet Samuel; he is anointed the new king of Israel by Samuel (since King Saul of Israel is no longer in God’s favor); David argues with his brother Eliab after he comes into Saul’s camp and hears about the reward for killing the giant Goliath, the champion of the enemy Philistines; David offers to fight Goliath, countering Saul’s worry that he is just a boy by telling the king that he has killed the lions and bears that have threatened his sheep; Saul provides David with armor for his oncoming fight, but David decides not to wear it; David and Goliath confront each other and the young hero successfully slays the giant (presented in three scenes); and finally, David is married to Saul’s daughter Michal, as part of his reward for killing Goliath. A masterwork of Byzantine Art: The David Plates