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Philip van Santvoort, The Rape of Tamar by Amnon

Key facts
Full title The Rape of Tamar by Amnon
Artist Philip van Santvoort
Artist dates active from about 1711/12
Date made after 1718
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 59.8 × 49.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by Augustine Sargent, 1919
Inventory number NG3404
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Rape of Tamar by Amnon
Philip van Santvoort

Philip van Santvoort’s picture shows a violent episode taken from the Old Testament. Amnon, the son of King David and heir to his throne, desired his half-sister Tamar. He faked an illness and asked her to come and cook for him, then raped her.

Van Santvoort has depicted Amnon grabbing hold of Tamar, who seems to be resisting; the pair are frozen mid-movement. The scene looks almost like it is set on a stage, framed by curtains. The combination of silverware, lemons, and oranges spread out in the left foreground is more like a still life than somewhere where food is being prepared, adding to the overall theatrical effect of the setting.

Amnon’s half-brother Absalom would ultimately seek revenge for his sister’s assault, killing all of David’s other sons, including Amnon. Three years after the murder David forgave Absalom, and he returned to Jerusalem.

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