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Bathsheba Bathing
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Jean Bourdichon
French, Tours, 1498 - 1499
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
9 9/16 x 6 11/16 in.
MS. 79, RECTO

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This miniature of a radiant Bathsheba in her bath originally opened the seven penitential psalms in the manuscript known as the Hours of Louis XII. In the Middle Ages it was thought that King David wrote the seven penitential psalms in atonement for his sins, the greatest of which was seducing the young woman Bathsheba and murdering her husband. In this scene, Bathsheba is transformed into the temptress of King David, lingering naked in her bath and gazing unabashedly out at the viewer. Her abundant blond hair glows on the page, and her high, small breasts, and broad hips accorded with the highest standards of feminine beauty of the time. Clearly, she was intended to appeal to the book's patron, King Louis XII of France.

The Hours of Louis XII was one of the greatest French manuscripts of its time. Only sixteen of the manuscript's original complement of miniatures have come to light, and the Getty has acquired three of them. The other two are a frontispiece depicting the king kneeling in prayer, and a miniature of The Presentation in the Temple.