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A love couple revealed, Jacob Adriaensz Backer's so called David en Bathsheba identified as Isaac and Rebecca

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image of Oud Holland - Quarterly for Dutch Art History

Jacob Backer signed and dated (1640) a history piece that until now was entitled David and Bathsheba and is located in Tokyo. The image however, lacks the traditional iconographical motifs from which we can recognize this old biblical story.In this article I propose that the painting is a portrait historié of the wealthy Amsterdam couple Marinus Lowysse and Eva Ment represented as Isaac and Rebecca. Backer modelled his biblical love couple after Rafael's fresco Isaac and Rebecca spied upon by Abemelich in the Vatican. Backer must have known that image from Sisto Badalocchio's print of 1607 in Historia del Testamento Vecchio - this collection of fifty prints was reprinted in Amsterdam in 1638.The identification as Isaac and Rebecca does not show at first sight in the present painting. Therefore, we have to take in consideration that the current image is heavily over painted and the canvas is reduced by almost 65 %. Fortunately a drawing in Braunschweig – that was convincingly attributed by Peter van den Brink as a modello by Backer - offers a clear idea of the monumental standing format of the original painting and it's explicit erotic content. This is particular notable in the slung-leg motif that contemporaries undoubtedly would have recognized as the act of making love. The erotic allusions, the rare subject, and the unusual huge standing format are indicative of a commission.The identification of the commissioners derives from the striking likeness, in features and clothing, that the man in the Tokyo painting shows with the portrait of Marinus Lowysse, that he – as we know - commissioned from Backer in the same year of 1640, a Portrait historié of Marinus Lowysse en Eva Ment, with their children, presenting the history of Christ and the Canaanite Woman, now in Middelburg. Recently an unknown painting of Backer turned up at the art market, which is very likely another portrait of Marinus Lowysse; apparently he was an important client of Backer.

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