Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Plate with the Arming of David

Made in Constantinople
Overall: 10 1/2 x 1 9/16 in., 49.3oz. (26.6 x 4 cm, 1397g) foot: 4 9/16 x 9/16 in. (11.6 x 1.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 301
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.

David is shown receiving Saul’s armor for his battle with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:38). He stands under an arcuated lintel. In late Roman and early Byzantine art, this architectural structure, suggesting a palace, was used to distinguish the emperor and here implies David’s future role as king. The armor is Roman, a metal breastplate over a short tunic. To David’s right is Saul, who wears a chlamys, or cloak, over a short-sleeved tunic, which covers another tunic with embroidered cuffs, a standard feature of Byzantine courtly dress.
Cyprus Treasure, found at Karavas, Cyprus, 1902; [ C. & E. Canessa, Paris (sold 1906)]; J. Pierpont Morgan, London and New York (1906–1913); Estate of J. Pierpont Morgan(1913–1917)
Kunst-und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. "Byzanz: Pracht und Alltag," February 26, 2010–June 13, 2010.

Weitzmann, Kurt. "Byzantine Art and Scholarship in America." American Journal of Archaeology, 2nd series, 51, no. 4 (1947). pp. 397, 404.

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.

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. 6, 10.

Alexander, Suzanne Spain. "Heraclius, Byzantine Imperial Ideology, and the David Plates." Speculum 52, no. 2 (April 1977). pp. 217–37.

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.

Husband, Timothy B., and Charles T. Little. Europe in the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987. no. 29, 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. 65, p. 175.

Evans, Helen C., and Brandie Ratliff, ed. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012.

Spier, Jeffrey. Byzantium and the West: Jewelry in the First Millenium. Paris, Chicago and New York: Les Enluminures, 2012. p. 30.

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.

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