This tapestry, with its panoramic sense of scale and the imposing monumentality of its figures, closely relates to the designs of Bernard van Orley. It is very similar to one at Burgos Cathedral, which was part of a set of seven tapestries that were bequeathed by Cardinal Inigo López de Mendoza (d. 1537) (L. Beauvois-Faure, 'Een nieuwe reeks met de Geschiedenis van David naar een Ontwerp van Barend van Orley', De Bloeitijd van de Vlaamse Tapijtkunst, Brussels, 1969, p. 32). The Burgos set, which is coarser in weave than this tapestry, is presumed to have been woven in 1530 after a so far untraced editio princeps. It is possible that the difference in the quality of weave could indicate an earlier date for this tapestry, although the manner in which its border is executed places it possibly more towards 1540. It is likely that the series would originally have consisted of eight panels, as was frequently customary rather than seven such as was Mendoza's.
A third set, one example of which was formerly in the Charles Ffoulke Collection, was possibly woven for Paulus III (d. 1549) for his nomination as Pope in 1534 and bears his arms in the borders that are identical to those of the Burgos set ( E. Standen, 'Tapisseries Renaissance, Maniéristes et baroques: nouveaux dévelopments', Revue de l'Art, no. 22, 1973, p. 91). The Burgos and Paulus sets both bear the same, unidentified weaver's mark.
It is not so much the subject in itself, rather the details of the stances of the figures, the costumes and the architecture that can be compared to that of The Story of Jacob (Musée Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels), The Hunts of Maximilian (Louvre, Paris) and The Battle of Pavia (Museo e Gallerie Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples), which are works that are either documented as his works or that have been firmly attributed to Bernard van Orley (d. 1541). It is however entirely possible that more than one hand was involved in the design of the David set as the various panels of the series display differences in character and varying similarities to Orley's work.
As it is probable that the Burgos Story of David set was supplied to Mendoza shortly after 1530, it is likely that the designs for the series were prepared in the mid-1520s. Few tapestry designs from that period can be firmly attributed to Orley. He is known to have composed the 'Alba Passion' 1522 - 1526, while a set of four preparatory drawings for a Romulus and Remus series, which was possibly never woven, are all dated 1524. The only other set that is firmly attributed to him during this period is the famous Battle of Pavia set that was presented to Charles V in March 1531 and must have been designed in circa 1528 - 29 in order to have been completed by then. No specific figures can, however, be found copied from the above sets into the David set.
There are five preparatory drawings for this series in the British Museum, London, although none are directly related to this subject. The designs vary in style from the final weave, which is for certain partially due to the many translations that happen during the preparation of the modello, the cartoon and finally the weave of the tapestry. However, it may also be that various hands re-worked the drawings.
(L. Beauvois-Faure, 'Een nieuwe Reeks met de Geschiedenis van David naar een Ontwerp van Barend van Orley', De Bloeitijd van de Vlaamse Tapijtkunst, Brussels, 1969, pp. 29 - 39, and T. Campbell, Tapestry in the Renaissance, Art and Magnificence, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2002, pp. 287 - 303).
Samuel, the prophet and spiritual leader of the Israelites, selected David, shepherd boy and son of Jesse, to succeed Saul as King of Israel. When the Israelite armies were at war with the Philistine armies led by Goliath, an eight-foot tall man, Saul offered his armour to David. David rejected the offer and instead took five stones and a sling. When the two met, David slung a stone at Goliath's head and felled the giant. David then took the Philistine's sword and cut off his head, the signal for the Israelites to attack the enemy. (I Samuel 17:38-51).