Some stories in the bible have inspired painters for centuries. David and Bathsheba is one of them. There are many, many painters who painted this story of lust and what it does to a man. This picture by Rembrandt is very famous. It’s in the Louvre and it is called Bathsheba holding King David’s Letter.
|Rembrandt – Bathsheba holding King David’s Letter|
The story of David’s seduction of Bathsheba, told in 2 Samuel 11, is omitted in Chronicles. It is the story of this king (David). He couldn’t sleep went up to his rooftop and saw on another rooftop this wife of one of his generals bathing on the rooftop.
She was so beautiful the king summoned her to his house and slept with her. Just once, you know.
(Bathsheba’s toilet, Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, 1594)
And some time after that she sent him a note just saying “I’m pregnant”. With a husband far away the king didn’t want gossip in his palace and summoned her husband Uriah and “rewards” him with a visit to his home, being so long from home and all that. And with a beautiful wife at home, they would fuck like rabbits, nine months later and Uriah’s child would be born.
|Anonymous painter, 17th century|
Brilliant plan, if not the guy says: “No, if my comrades don’t have a comfortable bed to sleep in, I will not either so I will sleep with them in the fields.”
|Willem Drost 1654 Bathsheba|
Ahum. Problem bigger than ever. A new scheme:
So David sends him to the battlefield and orders an attack and gives instructions to send Uriah to the place where he is most likely to die. And he does. A cover up than between the General who send Uriah and the King, and the King sends his wife Bathsheba a letter and informs her of her husbands death. After the mourning period they get married. A “wonderful gesture” of king David to take care of the wife of one of his generals.
All wonderful pictures, the breasts on the picture of Drost are supposed to be the “most perfect round breasts ever painted”, but it’s not what this post is about. This post is about another painting of Rembrandt of David and Bathsheba of Rembrandt. Less known perhaps, dark, but a wonderful painting, so Rembrandt, nonetheless. Light and dark like only Rembrandt can paint. It is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
|Rembrandt van Rijn 1643, The toilet of Bathsheba|
Bathsheba is being prepared for her erotic encounter with King David who can just be seen on the walls of his palace at upper left looking down at Bathsheba.
The theme and the focus of this painting is Bathsheba’s toilette. And there is a reason why.
The maid (the same as in the picture on top of this post?), as in almost all great toilette scenes, is the “artist” painting Bathsheba with her paintbrush-shaped tool. Beside the old woman a small saucer filled with water represents her “palette” with what looks like a sponge in it. Artists actually use sponges to paint. Rembrandt’s signature is on the raised dais directly below the saucer thereby strengthening the link to the artist. Above her is a large tray and silver jug, the jug’s side shaped like a reflective eye. In it lies a gold chain like those given to great artists by their royal patrons. Rembrandt had painted himself actually wearing one he never received in 1629.
Like Bach, Rembrandt added a moral to this picture, a man in the Golden Age would have noticed, but we seem to have forgotten. If you look from a distance to this paintings you might see the contours of a human face in it, the the eyes and a very big nose. One eye is in the dark, a symbol for David’s lack of insight and the left eye is in the light, a sunlit place in the painting to indicate perception of the viewer. Now if you have seen some of Rembrandt self portraits you might have noticed his nose was not very small. So it is possible that we look at Rembrandt looking at Bathsheba like David would have done. The maid paints her toenails like Rembrandt paints the maid. And so, we, those that look upon this vision of beauty, and lust after her, commit the same felony David did. A moral in the 17th century that was very common and well understood in those days.
|The contours of Rembrandt’s face|
Did I want to educate my blog readers, or did it gave me an excuse to look at all those lovely breasts? Did I choose this subject because the paintings were so wonderful, or hormones bringing you all of this?