In 628–29 the Byzantine emperor Herakleios (r. 610–41) successfully ended a long, costly war with Persia and regained Jerusalem, Egypt, and other Byzantine territory. Silver stamps dating to 613–29/30 on the reverse of these masterpieces place their manufacture in Herakleios’s reign. The biblical figures on the plates wear the costume of the early Byzantine court, suggesting to the viewer that, like Saul and David, the Byzantine emperor was a ruler chosen by God. Elaborate dishes used for display at banquets were common in the late Roman and early Byzantine world; generally decorated with classical themes, these objects conveyed wealth, social status, and learning. This set of silver plates may be the earliest surviving example of the use of biblical scenes for such displays. Their intended arrangement may have closely followed the biblical order of the events, and their display may have conformed to the shape of a Christogram, or monogram for the name of Christ.
In order to prove that he can kill Goliath, David describes to Saul how he killed a lion (1 Samuel 17:34–37). The accomplished naturalism of David’s flowing cape and the lion’s fur and mane demonstrates a conscious reference to and continuity of the traditions of Greco-Roman art.
Cyprus Treasure, found at Karavas, Cyprus, 1902
; [ C. & E. Canessa, Paris (sold 1906)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (1906–13); Estate of J. Pierpont Morgan(1913–17)
Miner, Dorothy, ed. Early Christian and Byzantine Art: An Exhibition Held at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Baltimore: Walters Art Museum, 1947. no. 413, p. 90, pl. LIII.
Weitzmann, Kurt. "Byzantine Art and Scholarship in America." American Journal of Archaeology, 2nd series, 51, no. 4 (1947). pp. 397, 404.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Treasures of the Metropolitan: A Selection from the European and Asiatic Collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1952. no. 35, pp. 45, 46, 220.
Rorimer, James J. "The Authenticity of the Chalice of Antioch." In Studies in Art and Literature for Belle da Costa Greene, edited by Dorothy Miner. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954. pp. 162–63, 164.
Rorimer, James J., and William Holmes Forsyth. "The Medieval Galleries." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 12, no. 6 (February 1954). p. 125.
Byzantine Art, a[n] European Art. Catalogue of the Ninth Exhibition of the Council of Europe. Athens: Zappeion Exhibition Hall, 1964. no. 495, p. 423.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 26, no. 5 (January 1968). no. 11, p. 201.
Ostoia, Vera K. The Middle Ages: Treasures from the Cloisters and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1969. no. 22, pp. 54-5, 253-4.
Hoving, Thomas. "Director's Choice." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 28, no. 5 (January 1970). pp. 24-25.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries. New York: Dutton Publishing, 1970. no. 113, p. 149.
Beeson, Nora B., ed. Guide to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1972. no. 15, p. 212.
Wander, Steven H. "The Cyprus Plates: The Story of David and Goliath." Metropolitan Museum Journal 8 (1973). pp. 89-104, fig. 7, 10.
Alexander, Suzanne Spain. "Heraclius, Byzantine Imperial Ideology, and the David Plates." Speculum 52, no. 2 (April 1977). pp. 217–37.
Weitzmann, Kurt. "The Late Roman World." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 35, no. 2 (Autumn 1977). no. 58, pp. 66-67, fig. 58.
Weitzmann, Kurt, ed. Age of Spirituality: Late Antique and Early Christian Art, Third to Seventh Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979. no. 425, pp. 475-483.
Pächt, Otto. Book Illumination in the Middle Ages: an Introduction. London: Harvey Miller Publishers, 1986. p. 77, fig. 101.
Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 30, pp. 37, 39.
Dresken-Weiland, Jutta. Reliefierte Tischplatten aus theodosianischer Zeit. Vatican City: Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia, 1991. pp. 136–37.
Norris, Michael. A Masterwork of Byzantine Art : The David Plates ; The Story of David and Goliath. Closer look. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001. p. 11.
Frings, Jutta, ed. Byzanz: Pracht und Alltag. Bonn: Kunst-und Austellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2010. no. 64, p. 174.
Durand, Jannic, and Dorota Giovannoni, ed. Chypre: entre Byzance et l'Occident, IVe–XVIe siècle. Paris: Musée du Louvre Éditions, 2012. no. 19c, pp. 67, 69.
Evans, Helen C., and Brandie Ratliff, ed. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.
Wander, Steven H. The Joshua Roll. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012. pp. 134–36, 140, fig. 29.
Humphrey, Lyle. "Collecting Christianity on the Nile: J. Pierpont Morgan and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." In Age of Transition: Byzantine Culture in the Islamic World, edited by Helen C. Evans. New York: Yale University Press, 2015. p. 3, fig. 2.