Marriage of David and Bathsheba
The Marriage of David and Bathsheba is the second panel of the series and represents the adulterous meeting of David and Bathsheba in the king’s palace. David in this panel will commit adultery by having a secret amorous encounter with Bathsheba, the wife of his general and warrior, Uriah (Samuel 2, 11 & 12).
Two illicit lovers
In the foreground, David receives the beautiful Bathsheba and her ladies in his palace, the woman he had spied in Panel One washing her hands at a Gothic fountain. In the upper right corner, the two illicit lovers are embracing.
To the left, Bathsheba bids her husband farewell, Uriah ignoring the fact that his master and king has coveted his wife, who becomes pregnant after this encounter and that David will betray him. The king has sent Uriah to battle, where he will die, paving the way for David to marry Bathsheba.
The creative process
This series is executed in a tapestry style known as, Pre-Renaissance, where the compositions are generally crowded with many figures peripheral to the main scene in the middle foreground. Narrative scenes take place to the right and left. These supplemental personages were copied from pattern books, and the schemes used and re-used by weavers made such Pre-Renaissance tapestries, decorative, attractive and popular with buyers well in the late 1520s.
The inscription Moer seen woven in the cloaks of personages in all three panels may refer to “Moor” or mori in Italian, maure in French which the tapestry historian J. K. Steppe thought was added by the tapestry weavers to lend these tapestries an aura of exoticism. This element of the “other” may have been an element Manuel I desired depicted in this commission, since his Lisbon court was filled with foreign peoples from Africa, Brazil and Asia.
The red banner with gold letters, above the late Gothic architectural elements and columns, reinforces with its inscription what has happened in the three narrative scenes just below and reads: HIC. BERSABEE. PRESE[N]TATUR. ET. A. DAVID. ACCEPTATUR. ULTRA. SCELUS. PERAMATUR. [“Here is Bathsheba presented to and received by David, and is loved by the sinner.”]
Series The History of David and Bathsheba
Second panel of the series
Manufacture Unknown, Brussels, 1505
Fabric Gold, silk and wool
Size 366 x 344 cm
Location Royal Palace of La Granja de San Ildefonso
Origin Collection of Manuel I of Portugal. In 1543 three tapestries were included by Catherine of Austria in the dowry of her daughter Princess Maria when she married Prince Philip of Spain. After the king’s death in 1598, recorded in a post-mortem inventory of Philip II
On display Tapestry Museum
National Heritage Inv. n. 10005828