Jan Steen (Dutch, c.1626-1679)
late 1660s
Oil on panel 
15 x 12-1/2 in. (38.1 x 31.8 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
Not on View

Known for his paintings of boisterous genre scenes with moralizing overtones, and religious subjects set in contemporary domestic interiors, Jan Steen represents here the beguiling Bathsheba as a fashionable young woman. The Biblical source for this subject is ii Samuel 11:2–4. Through the window in the upper left, king David is seen upon a terrace, watching as an old woman delivers his love letter. The letter begins “Liefe minne…,”
(“sweet love…”).

This painting is perhaps the most subdued of the three by Steen on display. However the theatrical leitmotif, as well as its narrative on human nature and misjudgement, are ever present in all of Steen’s pictures. His works have the appearance of being casually composed, yet their careful structure is designed to lead the eye through the story. Here, the angle of Bathsheba’s hand and pointed finger leads in a straight line that extends along David’s balcony wall to the top left corner of the composition, and emphasizes that she looks not toward the letter, but to its author.


J. van Zaanen (sale The Hague, 16 November 1767, lot. 16, paired with lot 17, "Ascanius and Lucilla").
Possibly van Slingelandt collection, The Hague.
Marquis of Bute, London, by January 1800- still in 1938.
[Galerie Internationale, The Hague (H. Maas), 1938.]
[Firma D. Katz, Dieren, by 1938? Sold 2 August 1940 [stated to be sold under duress to];
[Goudstikker/Miedl, Amsterdam (inv. no. 5238), sold through];
[Galerie Almas, Munich, to];
Linz Collection (no. 1108), Reichskanzlei 17 October 1940. Recovered and transported to; Munich Collection Point, Munich nr. 2349 (or 2348), who returned it to the Dutch government in Dutch run nr. 15 (transport VI USFET). Returned by Dutch Government 13 November 1947 to;
[Nathan Katz (1893-ca.1950), The Hague (sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, 7 December 1950, lot. 58, for ff. 480,000)].
[Cramer Oudekunst, The Hague];
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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