Saul and the Witch of Endor


Sharp, William, Saul and the Witch of Endor, 1788, engraving on paper, Chicago Art Institute, Chicago.

When this engraving was made the Industrial Revolution was just beginning and a new middle class arose quickly. As literacy rose in this new class of merchants and traders the demand for books, magazines, and newspapers increased as well as a demand for reproducible illustrations for religious storybooks and Bibles. Sharp was a publisher’s engraver who lived in London. This engraving may have been for a biblical story book or may be a copy of an unknown painting. Sharp has captured the moment when the witch of Endor produces the prophet Samuel’s spirit for Saul. The first king of Israel, Saul had banished all sorcerers and conjurers from his kingdom but his concern about the final outcome of Israel’s battle against the Philistines caused him to seek the services of someone with “a familiar spirit.” When his servants told him of such a woman at Endor, he disguised himself and visited her.