Cranach - David and Bathsheba
David and Bathsheba
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Private Collection
01.06.2020 - 20:03
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CDA ID / Inventory NumberPRIVATE_NONE-P269
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FR (1978) No.FR-none
David and Bathsheba[Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Lucas Cranach the Elder [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019] 'Painted in the main by Lucas Cranach the Elder with the participation of his son Lucas' Dieter Koepplin [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Lucas Cranach the Younger 'Painted in the main by Lucas Cranach the Elder with the participation of his son Lucas' Dieter Koepplin [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Hans Cranach Werner Schade [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Lucas Cranach der Ältere and WorkshopLudwig Meyer [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
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Owner / Repository / Location:
OwnerPrivate Collection
RepositoryPrivate Collection
Dimensions of support: 115 x 79.3 cm [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Painting on lime wood [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Signature / Date:
Artist's insignia on the stone block at the bottom right: serpent with elevated wings, facing left and dated '1534'; in black paint [cda 2019]
The subject is taken from second Book of Samuel (11: 2-17). From the roof of his palace King David sees a beautiful woman bathing. This was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David's generals. She was brought before the King, who seduced her and made her pregnant. Her then inconvenient husband was despatched to the front line in battle, where he inevitably met his end, and David and Bathsheba were married. The child of their union, however, survived only a few days, and David subsequently did penance. Despite David's morally indefensible behaviour, the story was regarded by the medieval church as a typological prefiguration of Christ (David) and the Church (Bathsheba). The meeting of David and Bathsheba was clearly a favourite pictorial theme in the Cranach workshop, and was treated by Lucas Cranach the Elder and his sons on a number of occasions and in a variety of media. The present work occupies a position of particular interest in the development of this theme. The earliest surviving example is a woodcut made for Luther's translation of the Old Testament and published in 1524. In this Cranach established his basic design which would serve as the basis for later versions: the King sits in his palace, which is surrounded by a small stream or moat, beside which Bathsheba sits with her attendants, one of whom holds her slippers while another washes her feet. The first painted version of the subject dates from 1526 (Berlin, Staatliche Museen [DE_smbGG_567B]), and in this, as in all subsequent versions, David is moved to the roof of his palace, strumming upon his harp. [Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
- with William Anthony, London
- James Whatman, M.P. (1813-1887) by whom acquired from the above on 6 June 1848, for £40
- anonymous sale ('The Property of a Gentleman'), London, Christie's, 11 July 1980, lot 96 (as by Lucas Cranach the Elder and workshop)
- with Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich
- with Galerie Francesca, from whom acquired by the previous owner on 27 July 1981, for DM 172,600 (as by Lucas Cranach the Elder and workshop)
- 09.07.2008 by Sotheby's, London
[Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]
Interpretation / History / Discussion:
The Berlin painting [DE_smbGG_567B] is closely related to another woodcut, which was published in Martin Luther's Catechism of 1529, but which was probably designed in collaboration with Philip Melanchthon as early as 1527. This is then followed by a drawing in brown ink and wash, today in Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, which Schade has most recently dated to around 1526. Although such a dating would separate the drawing from the present work by some eight years, there can be little doubt that the two are very similar. The figures of the standing lady-in-waiting on the extreme right of the composition, for example, and that of Bathsheba, with her eyes raised towards the king, both wearing large feathered hats, are the same in both pictures. The position of the maidservant washing Bathsheba's feet is, however, slightly different, and may have been more influenced by the corresponding figure in the Berlin painting. Recent infra-red reflectographs, taken shortly after the 1980 sale at the Schweizerisches Kunstinstitut, show that the execution of the panel at times varied from the preliminary underdrawing.
Three further versions in the development of the composition date, like the present painting, from the 1530s. These are a horizontal panel in Dresden, Gemäldegalerie [DE_SKD_GG1930], a pen and ink drawing in Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Künste and an upright painting in Berlin, Stiftung Preussische Schlösser und Gärten [DE_SPSG_GKI1186]. All of these are now generally considered by scholars to be the work of Lucas Cranach the Younger and dated to around 1537-40. The autograph status of the present work, which lies between the two groups, has been the subject of much scholarly debate.
[Sotheby's online database;; accessed 20-03-2019]