Jan De Bray (Haarlem circa 1627-circa 1697 Amsterdam)
Bathsheba bathing oil on panel 37 x 32cm (14 9/16 x 12 5/8in).
Jan de Bray spent most of his career working in Haarlem where he succeeded Frans Hals as the favourite portrait painter of the Haarlem patriciate. Indeed, his biographer, Arnold Houbraken called Jan 'the pearl in Haarlem's crown'. As well as portraits, often groups, he was a history painter of originality and sensitivity, arguably one of the most important history painters of the Dutch Golden Age. Among his most successful works are those subject pictures in which he incorporated portraiture, allowing him all the better to concentrate on the psychological drama inherent in his stories. For example, in the two versions of the Banquet of Cleopatra he used his own family, including himself, as models (Royal Collection, 1652, and Currier Museum of Art, New Hampshire, 1669). Particularly moving is the second version since most of those depicted had died in the plague of 1663-4. Throughout his career Jan experimented with unusual vantage points and unusual moments within a story. He thus endowed his figures with great presence and a sense of monumentality, while retaining their natural identity.