Advent offering – 16 December

Today’s advent image comes from someone we’ve met already – French Symbolist artist Gustave Moreau (1826-98), whose works typically illustrate biblical and mythological figures. One of the many things I like about Moreau is his imaginative use of colour to convey a certain feeling, mood or tone in his paintings, the way he can conjure up for us an atmosphere of heat or cool, decadence or sacredness, simplicity or glamour:

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Gustave Moreau, Dalila
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Gustave Moreau, Salome dancing before Herod
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Gustave Moreau, Salome in the Garden
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Gustave Moreau, La Pieta

The image I’ve chosen today for the advent calendar is one of my favourites, depicting that most famous biblical bather, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11). Moreau presents her sitting on an open terrace above some shrubs and trees, surrounded by stone buildings, attending to her toilette in the cool shade of the evening. Her pale white skin is almost iridescent, matching the white veil that sits halo-like around her head and drapes modestly between her thighs. Her ankles, wrists and forehead are bejewelled and in her repose, she is surrounded by a rich rainbow of reds, blues, and golds. This is an exotic Bathsheba, who draws our gaze towards her, just as she draws the fateful gaze of King David, whom we can just make out way above her on the castle rampart. For now, she sits, eyes closed, blithely unaware of his presence, enjoying, perhaps, the cool of the evening breeze on her skin and the peaceful quiet of her sheltered surroundings. Reading the rest of 2 Samuel 11, we  learn that this peace will shatter all too soon. Moreau, however, lets Bathsheba remain, untouched, in this irenic moment, David still a safe distance away.

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Gustave Moreau, Bathsheba (c.1885)
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Published by

Caroline Blyth

University lecturer in the Bible and culture.

3 thoughts on “Advent offering – 16 December”

  1. I know you are studying the figures but I often study the surroundings. An example in the top picture the colour of the “vase” to the left, its a green but not just any old green, it has a depth. Is it actually green coloured? Or is there a green liquid inside? What is it’s purpose?

    As for the clothing, the embellishments, especially on the edges, a lace or more. Probably nothing that relates to the subject matter but for the artist, I have inquiring mind

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