Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, by Rembrandt

Bathsheba with King David’s Letter, by Rembrandt

This week, our section Masterpieces is devoted to a subject that Rembrandt painted more than once; this particular version differs from the others in its tight pictorial focus and erotic energy.

The artwork was criticized by his contemporaries; it is a life-size nude, painted between 1650 and 1660, at the peak moment of creative activity of the painter, when he had already abandoned the style still pursued by his contemporaries.

The Biblical subject refers to King David, who saw a woman bathing from his palace roof: Bathsheba, wife of Uriah . David fell in love with her and they conceived a child. David married Bathsheba, as he sent Uriah into battle, ordering to abandon him to death.

The model is Rembrandt’s partner Hendrickje Stoffels, who was 28-year-old at the time of the painting.

This detailed masterpiece is fully charged of sensuality and intimacy.  At the time of the painting, Rembrandt started to use colors in a more generous way, using the sfumato to increase the sense of distance. The overall effect is that the life-sized nude comes alive in the eyes of the beholder; not idealized, but in a realistic way.

The work was sold by Christie’s in 1811 and later entered the collection of Louis La Caze, being finally donated to the Musée du Louvre.

Bathsheba with David's letter *oil on canvas *142 x 142 cm *signed b.l.: Rembrandt. f. 1654
Bathsheba with David’s letter. Oil on canvas – 142 x 142 cm signed b.l.: Rembrandt. f. 1654

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