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Rembrandt: Bathsheba Joe's Art Journal 1998, Year 1
No. 2, Jul 30

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This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar, I am just a painter and art lover only. As lover I will approach one of the works of art the heritage of all mankind has left us, one by one, week after week, as long as I can. I will keep my investigation personal and simple, meant to open your eyes to see for yourself. Words can be used as a means to that end, but it is rather the space between the words that does the work. A great master of the art of appreciation of art, Kurt Rossacher of Vienna, demanded to see with nose first, eyes, tongue, heart, and only at last with the brain.

Your appreciation will give me the power and strength to endure. It is for you and all the great masters that I do this work, and I hope you will enjoy it. So don't hesitate to send me your feedback in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net, so please tell me if the size is ok (images are great, but big!).

As I am writing in a foreign language, I am not sure to express myself correctly, but I hope you will be able to guess what I mean any time.

Also, I invite you to join in my effort. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal.

Yours truly,

Rembrandt: Bathsheba (scan by Mark Harden)

(To get a blowup while offline: Connect to the internet, click then disconnect).

The beauty of the body

The story of Bathseba was often used as an opportunity to show the beauty of a woman's naked body. And this body is beautiful, indeed, even if you aren't used to this kind of body and can't see it immediately. If you contemplate for a while and get rid of our cultural distortion, you realize that this body is indeed so beautiful that it hurts, once you look with the eyes of a lover. (To get a blowup of the whole body while offline: Connect to the internet, click , then disconnect).

But the beauty of the body is not what makes this painting great. This alone never is, any Playboy pin-up is proof of that. Also, I will not go into technical or stylistic details to show why this is a great painting as such, not at all oldfashioned or out-of-date by modern painting, although this could be interesting, too.

Basic questions

Instead, I will delve into the human dimension only. Why will this painting still be talking to people centuries from now? Why does it talk to us? What does it tell?

Rembrandt, Bathsheba, clipping
Obviously, this woman is moved in a very deep way. This sentiment can be felt in the entire figure, but it culminates in the face, of course. The picture is related to a story in the bible, but you don't have to know this story to be moved by strong feelings.

If you take some time to look, you see that it is something great, deep, encompassing, that moves her heart, actually mixed-up feelings, something like heart-sickness, sorrow, grief, too, but also love and longing, maybe the abundance of live in all its wealth.

These are the feelings of a full grown woman, an adult personality in the true sense of the word, a female person living to her sex and her role inclined by that sex. No pretending, nothing stylish, she is really there, all by herself, and this presence has the weight of a great person.

She seems to contemplate something, maybe her life, her future, her lover, her children, her destiny, we don't know yet, but we feel no day-to-day thoughts, no time pressure distract her from these grave feelings absolutely present.

She gives way to them, does not fight them in any way, sinks into that feeling, not even tries to find out what to do, she is absolutely passive and floats with the feeling. In doing so, she expresses her womanliness, too.

Rembrandt, Bathseba, clipping

Last week:
Masterpiece of Rembrandt

Next week:
Reading the picture

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Rossacher discovered the statue of a black woman of similar intensity. I made a hard copy of this black-and-white picture on my Sharp JX-9660 laser printer to pin it to my wall behind the desk. After a few weeks, I had to take it off face down, the intensity of this statue was all too distracting. Says Rossacher: "Der weibliche Akt ist von Rubensscher Fülle, dazu bildet das trauernde Antlitz einen ergreifenden Kontrast." (The female act has Ruben's abundance, to which the mourning countenance constitutes a touching contrast.)


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