II Samuel 11:2-17 tells of how King David one day saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite who was away on military service, bathing. He asked for her to be brought to him, after which she became pregant by him. Later David wrote to Uriah's commander saying 'Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle... that he may be smitten and die'. Uriah was indeed killed and David married Bathsheba.
The letter held by Bathsheba in the present picture presumably contains David's request for her to go to him, although no letter is in fact mentioned in the Bible story.
Sumowski, loc. cit., describes the present picture as a 'malerisch exquisites Hauptwerk' of c. 1631, the early period of the artist. He compares it to another composition by Lievens of the same subject in the collection of Terence and Jeannine Cooney, California (op. cit., p. 3623, no. 1189, illustrated p. 3670).
A picture of Bathsheba by Lievens is recorded in the Inventory of Jan Franchoys Tartaroli (Leyden, 7 Dec. 1653) and another in that of Jan de Wyss, Amsterdam, 1684 (H. Schneider, Jan Lievens. Sein Leben und seine Werke, Haarlem, 1932, p. 96, nos. 16a and b), although it is not clear if they represent the episode depicted in the present composition or another moment from the story of Bathsheba.
The present picture is sold with a photocopy of a certificate by Professor Sumowski, dated 31 December 1992.