BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008





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David and Bathsheba; Jan MASSYS; 1562; oil on wood; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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A young woman taking her bath : Bathsheba





Bathsheba is having her bath in a fountain. She is more or less naked; one takes one’s bath in a shirt but artists like to show her beauty. She is a lady of rank and she is often with one or several maidservants.

The representations of the bath are quite varied: in a pond, a fountain or a simple tub, Bathsheba is in her shirt or completely naked, accompanied by one maidservant or surrounded by a crowd of servants.

David sees her for he is enjoying the cool of the day at a window of the palace or on a balcony; he plays the harp and he is looking at her. He is sometimes so far in the background that he can hardly be seen.

With her beauty unveiled, Bathsheba stirs David’s feelings. Does he see her? Or does she pretend she has not seen his glance at her? If she is represented combing her hair, this is understood as a sign of seduction.

David desires her, he sometimes holds out his hand towards her or charms her with his music…but there is also a go-between who brings a love letter or delivers an oral message. This messenger is either a man or an old woman.
So David can disappear completely from the scene which becomes a mere lady’s toilet.



It should not be confused with



Susanna and the Elders; Jacopo TINTORETTO; 1555; oil on canvas; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

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The young woman taking her bath can be Bathsheba or Susanna.

In both cases two, pretty ladies are at their baths. They are alone or with maid-servants but, without being aware of it, they are watched or spied on. Here this is Susanna spied on by the old men.

The nature of the observers changes the nature of this scene of voyeurism. When it was the young king David watching Bathsheba from his palace, the scene was one of seduction and budding love, one of strong passion. But here when they are two old men hiding behind a bush to spy on Susanna, the scene is one of libidinous lust, of the preparation of a probable rape.

(See the comment on Susanna).



The Toilet of Esther; Théodore CHASSERIAU; c. 1840; oil on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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There is a third bath: that of Esther who prepares herself to meet King Ahasuerus, her husband, but at her toilet, there is nobody, except for her maid-servants, to watch or spy on her.



Toilette de Venus

Venus Adorned by the Graces, Annibale CARRACCI; 1590-95; oil on panel transferred to canvas; National Gallery, Washington.

 National Gallery Washington


Outside the Bible

The toilet of Venus is a classical mythological theme that is often represented. The presence of little Cupids allows the spectator to distinguish it from biblical scenes.



Diana leaving her Bath; François BOUCHER; 1742; oil on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris.




The bath of Diana-Artemis is also a classical theme. The chaste goddess is bathing when she is surprised by the hunter Actaeon; she has him devoured by her dogs.





David and Bathsheba; Jan MASSYS; 1562; oil on wood; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Web Gallery of Art


A young woman taking her bath : Bathsheba


The Second Book of Samuel, chapter 11

  One night as David was having a walk  from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."

The king wrote to the commander of his army:  "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire from him, that he may be struck, and die." And that was what happened. (2 Samuel 11:2-15)


The king’s seduction of Bathsheba appears rather trivial but she is a married woman and she becomes pregnant. There is therefore a proof of adultery, a crime that the Hebrews severely punished.

Hence the quasi murder of her husband. A very immoral story but the following chapters show the king acknowledging his sin and repenting.

Bathsheba will be the mother of Solomon, David’s successor.






A young woman taking her bath : Bathsheba




David and Bathsheba; Jan MASSYS; 1562; oil on wood; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Web Gallery of Art


The Middle-Ages and the Renaissance represented Bathsheba more or less undressed without any possibility to draw rules from it. Here, she is naked in a prayer book and dressed in Cranach, a painter famous for his female nudes.



After David sees Bathsheba at her Bath; Master of suffrages; c. 1500; miniature on vellum; Book of Hours of Leyden; manuscript KB 129 G 2; Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.



David and Bathsheba; Lucas CRANACH the elder; 1526; oil on wood, Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

Olga's Gallery - Online Art Museum


In these two pictures, King David is hardly visible, but in Van Loo, the old maid-servant plays the role of a go-between and points to him.  

Bathsheba at the Bath; Sebastiano RICCI; 1720; oil on canvas; Szepmuveseti Muzeum, Budapest.

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Bathsheba; Jacob van LOO; c.1650; oil on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

In secula


The scene can also be seen on David’s side or can give a fine fusion.


David covets Bathsheba; Julius Schnorr von CAROLSFELD; 1851; engraving from “Bibel in Bildern”.




David and Bathsheba; Marc CHAGALL; 1956; lithograph



Raphael introduces an original element: the departure of the army in which Bathsheba’s husband is an officer. The army really separates the two future lovers but its departure will permit their meeting.

Salviati has Bathsheba go out of her bath to rejoin David.


David and Bathsheba; RAPHAEL; 1518; fresco; Raphael’s Loggia, Vatican Palace.

Christus Rex



Bathsheba goes to King David’s; Francesco SALVIATI; 1552; fresco; Palazzo Sacchetti, Rome.

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BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008