Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8 – 1543

Rehoboam's Arrogance

tempera on plaster (28 × 41 cm) — 1530 Museum Kunstmuseum, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung, Basel

Hans Holbein the Younger biography

This work is linked to 1 Kings 12:10

Tags: Kings

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Rehoboam was a son of king Solomon, and his successor to the throne of Israel. He made a decision that would split the kingdom in two: a northern part (Israel) and a southern part (Judah). He remained king of Judah.

The issue was taxation. Solomon had laid a heavy burden on the people. Rehoboam's senior advisers told him to lower the taxes. His peers however, much younger, advised him to raise taxes. They told him to use a comparison to clarify his intentions: My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.

Reckless Rehoboam followed the advise of his friends. Perhaps he needed the money for the further expansion of Jerusalem, in order to surpass his father. He paid a heavy price, because ten of the twelve tribes separated from his reign.

Holbein here shows the moment of arrogance: Rehoboam shows his little finger to the people. The painting was part of a large mural (made al secco, so not a fresco) in a room in Basel's town hall. The painting was transferred to the museum before the room was destroyed.

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