The Hours of Henry IV of France


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David and Bethsheba, f. 49v

The painting at the beginning of the seven penitential psalms shows a naked Bathsheba with extremely long hair in a small pool besides two women, possibly servants. King David can be seen in the background with one of his subjects, watching the woman from his palace. The plinth around one of the buildings in the royal complex features a war scene in which one soldier kills another with a spear, suggesting David’s intention to murder Uriah in order to take his wife who, like Eve, combined the canons of female beauty: a white complexion with pink highlights, blond hair, a wide, round forehead, harmoniously arranged traits, a serene, slim face, a pointed, regular nose, a small mouth with thin, red lips, and small breasts and a large stomach (a sign of fertility). Her very long hair in this illustration and the illustration of original sin has erotic undertones which link this trait to the garden featuring all the characteristics of a locus amoenus, i.e. a place of seduction where women display their charms, making it a focal point of scoptophilia. In addition to this androcentric and heterocentric attitude to the woman’s body, Bathsheba is also censured by depicting her with jewels on during her bath, a vain touch deliberately intended to be seductive. Thus, in the patriarchal mindset of the early sixteenth century, the responsible – or guilty – party was Bathsheba.

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