Bathsheba, Oeuvre Werkschau joe

The beauty of the body

Published as » Joe's Art Journal No. 2, Jul 30, 1998  previous  next

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.

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not go into technical or stylistic details to show why this is a great painting as such, not at all oldfashioned or out-of-date by modern painting, although this could be interesting, too.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?

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 life 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.

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