Take a letter, Uriah
It also illustrates one of the great proto-crime stories, of the kind that I've discussed before and asked readers to suggest more of. The painting is Bathsheba at Her Bath, and it depicts the story from 2 Samuel, Chapter 11, wherein King David sees Bathsheba bathing, is smitten, and does what it takes to get the woman he loves, even if it means — murder.
Here, Bathsheba has just received the king's summons, and you can tell from her face, her lowered head, and the fateful letter she holds how this one is going to turn out. In case you need to brush up on your biblical knowledge, the story is here. David, having made Bathsheba pregnant, summons her husband from battle and tries to send him home, to sleep with Bathsheba and thereby conceal David's own misdeed (the story, of course, takes place before the advent of DNA testing.) But the loyal Uriah refuses the comforts of home while his brother soldiers are still in the field.
David then sends him back to battle with a letter to the commander Joab ordering Joab to place Uriah in harm's way and thus ensure his death. He dies, Bathsheba mourns, she marries David and gives birth to his son.
What makes this a proto-crime story, other than David's treacherous act? The story's chillingly laconic kicker. Here's the chapter's second-to-last sentence:
"And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son."
Domestic bliss? Not so fast. Here's the last sentence: "But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD." A man sins, tries to escape his predicament, and only gets himself in deeper. Driven to killing, he is brought low as a consequence of his own acts.
And God said, let there be noir.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008
(Image of Bathsheba at Her Bath from Mark Harden's Artchive)