(1966), the Southern Downs Regional Council Art Collection. Donated by William Bowmore. On display, Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, Stanthorpe, Queensland.
THE seduction of Bathsheba by King David is a story that has enjoyed enormous popularity as a theme among the most celebrated artists, ranging from Rembrandt and Paul Cezanne to Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. The narrative, from the second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament, describes how David, while walking on the roof of his palace, glimpses the beautiful Bathsheba taking her bath. He is entranced and, even though she is the wife of one of his army generals, he orders that she be brought to the palace so he can make love to her. When she becomes pregnant, David arranges for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to be killed in battle so he can have her for himself. When Uriah is killed, David marries Bathsheba, but their child survives only a few days. David subsequently does penance and the couple’s second son, Solomon, eventually succeeds David as king.
The most famous version of the Bathsheba story is Rembrandt’s Bathsheba at her Bath, in the Louvre. Unlike many previous paintings on this theme, David is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we watch Bathsheba read a summons to the royal bed.
Interestingly, the letter is not mentioned in the Book of Samuel so Rembrandt added his own take on the story.
Rembrandt’s painting proved to be an inspiration for Picasso’s adaptation of the Bathsheba story. In one of the many prints that Picasso produced on the subject, he gave Bathsheba the features of his wife, Jacqueline. In that print, Picasso also depicts himself ‘‘ grotesquely, as the grinning maidservant washing her mistress’s feet in preparation for the royal rape’’, according to Simon Schama in his New Yorker essay Rembrandt’s Ghost: Picasso Looks Back.
Another Picasso print that reinterprets Rembrandt’s Bathsheba is in the collection of Queensland’s Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery, about 250km southwest of Brisbane, near the NSW border.
It may come as a surprise that a regional gallery could boast a Picasso. The lithograph, Bathsheba at her Toilet, came to the gallery thanks to the generosity of William Bowmore, who donated 30 works, including the Picasso and works by artists such as Margaret Olley and Charles Blackman.
Bowmore, who donated many millions of dollars’ worth of art to various institutions, had a collection that National Gallery of Australia director Ron Radford once described as ‘‘ the most brilliant, audacious and wideranging private collection of art assembled in Australia’’.
In 1998 two representatives
of the Stan-