“‘Though deficient in beauty’: a documentary history and interpretation of Rembrandt’s 1654 painting of Bathsheba,” in: Rembrandt’s Bathsheba reading King David’s letter, ed. Ann Jensen Adams, Cambridge, England (Cambridge University Press) 1998, pp. 176-203
For a volume on Rembrandt’s Bathsheba in the Cambridge University Press series Masterpieces of Western painting, edited by Ann Adams, I contributed an essay on the provenance and critical history of the painting, ending with an interpretation of my own.
1 thought on ““Though deficient in beauty”: a documentary history and interpretation of Rembrandt’s 1654 painting of Bathsheba”
This is super, thank you. The auction prices as a quantified index of desirability; the deployments of conventionalized praise as it pivots from one beloved to another, from exteriors to emotions; the link to Medea entirely plausible, her character then attaining sympathy from Cavalli to Paulus Bor, and fully explicated in the Jan Six preface. A great example of interpretation grounded in the documents, renewing the work.
Ungrounded thoughts: the Rembrandt Bathsheba fascinates not by dramatic expression but in his other manner, thought evident, impingent, but uninterpretable, only for guessing.
As to guesses, Jean-Marie Clarke’s point applies, that we are not told Bathsheba’s feelings; might she have welcomed the king’s approach? Women with letters are viewed so in other Dutch paintings of that time. For a modern, mystery compels desire from knowing her body to knowing her thoughts, at this moment when she learns that her life, like her toes, is in other hands.
To become the mother of Solomon was not so poor a destiny. Also in 1654, Hendrickje Stoffels gave birth to Rembrandt’s daughter and was stigmatized by the church as a traditional Bathsheba: “alas, what does love bring forth?” Paintings, perhaps.