Circa 1670 Italy
Susanna and The Elders – Italian School
Height 32 inches (81.28 cm)
Width 42 inches (106.68 cm)
Depth 2 inches (5.08 cm)
Oil on Canvas, set within a carved ebonised and parcel gilded frame.
‘Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold.’: The Book of Daniel (13:31) tells the story of this God-fearing woman, unfairly accused by two powerful and dishonest elderly judges of committing adultery.
According to the Old Testament, Susanna was about to be sentenced to death for adultery when Daniel, a young man inspired by God, suddenly revealed the truth, exposing the two liars, announcing that they had molested and blackmailed the innocent woman. They had surprised her alone while she was bathing in her garden, and threatened to publicly accuse her of betraying her husband if she did not consent to their carnal lusts. Susanna, loyal to her husband, rebuffed the threats and screamed for help. Unable to subdue her, the two elders decided to take revenge by inventing a fake story. Only the young prophet Daniel could come to Susanna’s rescue, exposing their lies and turning the sentence on them – the two elders were condemned to death.
This biblical episode inspired artists from the very early years of Christianity, but was especially popular among European painters in the 16th and 17th centuries. Indeed, in those years there was a flourishing of renditions of the theme known as “Susanna and the Elders”. This painting is one such composition which captures the dramatic moment that Susanna is surprised by her bathing pool.