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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:03

Video transcript

we're at the Louvre and we're looking at Rembrandt's Beth Sheba it's a large canvas and it's almost square and I think the nude is actually life-size so Bathsheba is a story from the Old Testament King David sees her bathing from his Terrace and is struck by her beauty and summons her even though she's the wife of a general Uriah they begin an illicit adulterous affair that ends in tragedy with Uriah being sent by David into battle to certain death and David and Bathsheba have a stillborn child and she's also mentally an outcast and I think we see that this is the first step in a terrible tragedy written on Bathsheba's face right so this is a really interesting painting in that you have Rembrandt lavishing tremendous attention to the beauty of her body but at the same time this is really a painting that's about psychology and it's about this moment of contemplation as she readies herself and there's a degree of sadness and perhaps some interest in the illicit as well Rembrandt is often showing us people's emotion their vulnerability he's often showing us people in a contemplative moment and that's what we see here with Bathsheba she seems to be contemplating the future she holds the letter in her hand she moves her left hand back and exposes her body to us and you're right there's that sense of the sensuality of her body and David's desire for her implicit in our own gaze at her body but at the same time a real consciousness of what this means for her she'll commit a sin and that she will pay for that sin there does seem to be real foreboding and it's not simply from the dark warm colors it was painting but it really has to do with the tilt of her head that her gaze is downward the lids of her eyes are low and it has to do with in a sense the softness and as you said the vulnerability of the face and the relaxed muscles of the face have that dark background that we often see in Rembrandt's work a typical really of the Baroque but at the same time really warm colors golds and yellows and reds and oranges Venetian in those colors and she's very close to us there really is no background we get a bit of a sense of a bed in the background the servant at the bottom washing or drying her feet that typical Rembrandt painter leanness in the white she at the right corner she takes up the space of the painting and her emotions take up the space of the painting too I'm really struck by the subtlety of the color and of the brushwork I mean invertible work is most evident in that white sheet that she has her hand on and that surrounds her and it's really just playful and energetic but the quality of her flash is really beautiful also and look at those subtle whites and pinks and greens and warm tones against cool and the ways in which her skeletal structure and her flashes with that in her body are all so tenderly rendered the figure of Bathsheba is modeled on Rembrandt's own female companion Hendrika and I'm struck by how she's not and idealized classical nude she's a real person and that also strikes me as very baroque and very Rembrandt this interest in the real although there is some distance I mean it's it's somewhat oriental eyes and of course there's the distance of this being biblical history so it's not as if she's a modern nude no he's transformed her he's based her honor on a real yeah and that sense of the reality of the figure is still present I agree you