The meeting of David and Abigail provides a biblical narrative ripe with action and romance (I Sam. 25). Afraid that David will attack her husband for refusing to pay for David's protection, Abigail and her servants gather together gifts of food to appease the approaching troops. Thanks to her beauty and to her eloquence, Abigail succeeds not only in avoiding war but also in eventually winning David’s heart.
The figures and details that fill this large canvas are partially invented by Rubens and partially taken from other sources, including the artist's collection of antique sculpture.
Artist Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, 1577-1640
  • The Meeting of David and Abigail
Date between 1625 and 1628
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 70 1/4 × 98 inches (178.5 × 248.9 cm)
Framed: 86 3/4 × 114 1/2 × 6 1/2 inches (220.3 × 290.8 × 16.5 cm)
Credit Line Gift of James E. Scripps
Accession Number 89.63
Department European Painting
On View European: Rubens, Level 2 (see map)
Duke of Richelieu;
presented to Roger de Piles (Paris, France);
January 16, 1715, sold by (Remy, Paris, France) auction Duke of Grammont;
1722, sold by (Willis, Rotterdam, Amsterdam) auction Jacques Meijers;
April 2, 1738, sold at Count von Plettenberg and Willem auction [for fl. 690];
Sir Paul Methuen (Grosvenor Street, London, England);
by inheritance to Paul Methuen, Esquire (Corsham Court, England);
by descent to Paul, First Lord Methuen (Corsham Court, England) ;
May 16, 1840, sold at auction Methuen [but not purchased at auction];
March 23 1844, sold by First Lord Methuen;
1844, purchased by (Yates) [with da Cortona "Female Saint" and Carracci (attr.) "Boy Blowing Bubbles," all three for 1,100 pounds];
Mr. York;
July 1-4, 1889, sold at auction M. E. Secretan (Paris, France) lot 158;
acquired by James E. Scripps (Detroit, Michigan, USA) [for 112,000 FF];
1889-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Dodsley, R. and J. London and its Environs. London, 1761, vol. III, p. 84.

Martyn, T. The English Connoisseur. London, 1766, vol. II, p. 17. [as A large picture of David and Abigail, by Sir Peter Paul Rubens.]

Britton, J. An Historical Account of Corsham House . . . 1806, cat. 80.

Smith, J. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the most Eminent Dutch, Flemish and French Painters. London, 1830, vol. II, p. 170, no. 592.

Rooses, M. L'Oeuvre de P.P. Rubens. Antwerp, 1886, vol. 1, p. 147, no. 120.

Scripps, J.E. Detroit Museum of Art Catalogue of the Scripps Collection of Old Masters. Detroit, 1889, pp. 29-30, no. 29.

Scripps, James E. Handbook of the Paintings Ancient and Modern Belonging to the Detroit Museum of Art. Detroit, 1895, p. 18.

Detroit Museum of Art Handbook of Paintings by the Old Masters. Detroit, 1910, pp. 25-27 (ill.).

Bryant, L.M. What Pictures to See in America. New York, 1915, pp. 228-231.

Detroit Institute of Arts Catalogue of Paintings, Sculpture and Contemporary Arts and Crafts. Detroit, 1920, pp. 72, 75, no. 75 (ill.).

Valentiner, W.R. "Rubens and Van Dyck in the Detroit Museum." Art in America 10, no. 5 (1922): pp. 203-207.

Bulletin of the DIA 4, no. 2 (1922): pp. 10-11 (ill.).

Heil, W. Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1930, cat. 194 (ill.).

Valentiner, W.R. and L.J. Walther. An Exhibition of Sixty Paintings and some Drawings by Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Art. Detroit, 1936, cat. 6.

Scheyer, E. Baroque Painting. Detroit, 1937, pp. 42-44 (fig. 17).

WPA Michigan. Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State. New York, 1941, p. 256.

Richardson, E.P., ed. Detroit Institute of Arts Catalogue of Paintings. Detroit, 1944, p. 114, no. 194.

Valentiner, W.R. "Rubens' Paintings in America." Art Quarterly 9, no. 2 (1946): p. 160, no. 72.

Goris, J.-A. and J.S. Held. Rubens in America. New York, 1947, p. 32, no. 39, pl. 46.

Jaffe M. "Rubens' Sketching in Paint." Art News 52, no. 3 (May 1953): pp. 34, 64.

Bulletin of the DIA 43, 3/4 (1964): p. 54 (ill.).

Goldstein, C. Review of B. Teyssedre "Roger de Piles et les debats sur le coloris au siècle de Louis XIV." Art Bulletin 49, no. 3 (1967): pp. 266-267.

Goldstein, C. "Theory and Practise in the French Academy: Louis Licherie's Abigal and David." Burlington Magazine 111 (June 1969): pp. 863-865.

Jaffé, M. "Rubens "David and Abigail." Burlington Magazine 114 (1972): pp. 863-864 (fig. 91).

Vlieghe, H. "Erasmus Quellinus and Rubens' Studio Practise." Burlington Magazine 119 (September 1977): pp. 642-643.

Peter Paul Rubens. Exh. cat., Royal Museum of Fine Arts. Antwerp, 1977, pp. 182-183, cat. 77 (ill.).

Homage to Rubens. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1978, no. 6.

Held, J.S. The Oil Sketches of Peter Paul Rubens. Princeton, 1980, vol. I, p. 436 (cited under no. 315).

Held, J.S. Flemish and German Paintings of the 17th Century: The Collections of The Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1982, pp. 87-90, frontispiece.

100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 102-103 (ill.).

Jaffé, M. Rubens catalogo completo. Milan, 1989, p. 316, no. 982 (ill.). [as ca. 1630 and involving studio.]

Masterpieces from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Exh. cat., Bunkamura Museum of Art, et al. Tokyo, 1989, pp. 57, 206; Japanese text, pp. 157-158) cat. 25 (ill.).

Bauman, G.C. and W. Liedtke. Flemish Paintings in America. Antwerp, 1992, p. 366, no. 440 (ill.). [as Rubens and studio.]

Keyes, G.S. "A Brief History of the European Paintings Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a Focus on the Dutch School." in the catalogue for the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). Maastricht, 2005, pp. 10-15 (fig. 2), p. 11.

Abt, Jeffrey. Valuing Detroit’s Art Museum: A History of Fiscal Abandonment and Rescue. Detroit, 2017, pp. xv, 10, fig. 1.5 (ill.).