Rembrandt’s ‘Bathsheba’

door Michèl Nijdam

In this painting we see Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, a general of King David’s army. The king upon seeing Bathsheba bathing, had her summoned, and led her into adultery. In this, one of his major works, the artist focuses his representation of the episode on Bathesheba at her bath. She is portrayed as both victim and sinner, deeply disturbed by the royal message.

In order to marry Bathsheba and conceal his sin, David sends Uriah into battle and orders his generals to abandon him, leaving him to certain death. The letter shown in Bathsheba’s hand contains a demand from David for her to choose between fidelity to her husband or obedience to her king.

The warm harmony of the painting, in tones of gold and copper, was inspired by great Venetian painters. Rembrandt’s skill in depicting light was at its height in this becalmed, mature work. The gold brocade cloth in the background and the dazzling white of the linen provide a luminous setting.