Lot 20
  • 20

Artemisia Gentileschi

200,000 - 300,000 GBP
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  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Bathsheba at her bath
  • oil on canvas


Acquired in Italy circa 1865 by Baron Deichmann as by Alessandro Allori;
Thence by inheritance to Freifrau Ady von Rüxleben, Thuringia;
By whom lent in 1961 to the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig, until bequeathed in the mid-1990s to the present owners.


H. Birringer, 'Bathsheba im Bade, in Museum der bildenden Künste zu Leipzig', in Erbe und Gegenwart: Festschrift Johannes Jahn zum 70. Geburstag, Leipzig 1963, pp. 393–97 (as Neapolitan, towards Artemisia);
A. Sutherland Harris in A. Sutherland Harris and L. Nochlin, Women Artists: 1550–1950, exhibition catalogue, New York 1976, p. 123, under cat. no. 15, and note 29 (here and henceforth as Artemisia);
M. D. Garrard, Artemisia Gentileschi. The image of the female hero in Italian Baroque art, Princeton 1989, pp. 128-29, 517, note 230, reproduced p. 129, fig. 120;
R. Contini in R. Contini and G. Papi (eds), Artemisia, exhibition catalogue, Rome 1991, pp. 79, 80, 87, note 88, 179, reproduced p. 80, fig. 66;
D. R. Marshall, Viviano and Nicolò Codazzi and the Baroque Architechtural Fantasy, Milan 1993, pp. 154–55 (with the architectural setting possibly by Ascanio Luciani);
R. Ward Bissell, Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art, Pennsylvania 1999, pp. 269–71, cat. no. 40 (slight reservations are given over attributing the work in full due to only knowing it from photographs; a possible collaboration with Artemisia's daughter is proposed);
R. Lattuada in K. Christiansen and J. W. Mann (eds), Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue, New York 2001, p. 416, under cat. no. 80, under 'Related Pictures';
R. Contini and F. Salinas, Artemisia Gentileschi, exhibition catalogue, Milan 2011, p. 114 and p. 228 under cat. no. 41.


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The canvas has been lined many years ago and this is still ensuring a reasonably even structural support having resolved various structural issues which are still apparent. There would appear to have been a number of areas of paint loss which have been filled and retouched in the past, presumably caused by structural instability prior to lining. Paint Surface The paint surface has a very discoloured and opaque varnish layer, with a number of areas of discoloured retouching which are visible in natural light. These areas are quite extensive and include retouching in the lower right corner and in the dark shadows in the foreground, through the yellow draperies of Bathsheba and on the flesh tones of the maid in the upper right of the composition. There are a number of other retouchings which have similarly discoloured and are visible in natural light. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows the varnish layers to be very opaque and discoloured, suggesting that cleaning should result in a considerable colour change. Scattered retouchings are visible under ultra-violet light, including a number on the right side of the face of the maid in the upper right of the composition, and retouchings beside her face and across the upper background. There are also retouchings on the right side of the face of Bathsheba and retouchings on and just below her yellow draperies. A number of other retouchings are visible under ultra-violet light and there is evidence of further retouching beneath the old opaque varnish layers which are less easy to quantify due to the discoloured nature of the varnish layers. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in reasonably stable condition having clearly undergone a significant amount of restoration in the past and while a considerable amount of work would be involved, the painting does have the potential to be transformed by cleaning, restoration and revarnishing.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

This impressive full-scale depiction of Bathsheba at her bath was painted by Artemisia Gentileschi, probably in the 1640s at the height of her maturity.  The painting is offered here at auction for the first time in its history.

Sometimes presented by latter-day scholars as a proto-feminist, Artemisia revelled in depictions of female heroines such as Judith and Sisera, as well as more traditional subjects such as Cleopatra, Danae, and female personifications of allegories. In the present work the heroine is at her toilet, attended to by two maid-servants. It successfully combines two of Artemisia’s career-long interests: the magnificence of the female form and the voluminous depiction of sumptuous fabrics, particularly in evidence in Bathsheba's yellow drapery.  

Artemisia must have enjoyed the subject considerably – probably because it offered her a ready-made vehicle to explore the female nude and thus delight her patrons – and revisited it on numerous occasions, producing several very distinct treatments of the subject and a number of versions of each treatment, one of which is recorded in the inventories of Charles I of England, though is sadly untraced. That the differnet 'types' were carefully modified in each of the various versions lends further credence to the theory that the artist made use of preparatory cartoons.

The composition finds echoes in all the other treatments of the subject. While David is notably absent from the present work, which Ward Bissell dates to 1637/38, the closest variant is the painting in a UK private collection exhibited in Milan in 2011, which shows the three figures in identical poses but is considerably altered in the background.1 Another type, possibly earlier in date, is represented by the Bathsheba in the Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio, which can also be linked to the present work since it repeats the disposition of the three figures.2 In the pose of Bathsheba's legs, the composition also makes use of features from another, later, scheme, whose best variant is probably the work in Potsdam, which has a much suffered version in the Uffizi (and a lost variant formerly at Gosford House, Scotland).3 This type can be extended to include the signed painting in the Haas Collection in Vienna, which is horizontal, and that sold at Sotheby's Milan in 2011, which introduces a handsome red curtain running vertically along the right edge of the design.4 The kneeling figure of the present work has been removed in both the last two types, with the basin taking a prominent central position as the fully nude Bathsheba is shown seated on a tasseled pillow.

1. See Contini and Solinas, under Literature, pp. 228–31, cat. no. 41, reproduced in colour.
2. See Ward Bissell, under Literature, pp. 263–66, cat. no. 37, reproduced in colour plate XXIII.
3. For the Potsdam canvas see Ward Bissell, op. cit., pp. 284–85, cat. no. 48a, reproduced figs 188–89.
4. See, respectively, Contini and Solinas, op. cit., pp. 240–41, cat. no. 46, reproduced in colour, and pp. 246–47, cat. no. 49, reproduced in colour. The latter was sold anonymously Milan, Sotheby's, 14 June 2011, lot 27, for 180,000 euros.