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“Susanna and the Elders” by Artemisia Gentileschi

"Susanna and the Elders" by Artemisia Gentileschi

“Susanna and the Elders” by Artemisia Gentileschi

“Susanna and the Elders” by Artemisia Gentileschi shows an uncomfortable Susanna with the two men above her, harassing her while she is in her bath.

This theme of Susanna and the Elders was popular in paintings during the time of the Baroque period.

Susanna and the Elders is a story from the Book of Daniel in the Bible. Susanna was a fair Hebrew wife who was falsely accused by lecherous voyeurs. As she bathes in her garden, two lustful elders secretly spy on the lovely Susanna.

When she makes her way back to her house, they accost her, threatening to claim that she met a young man in the garden unless she agrees to have sex with them.

Susanna refuses to be blackmailed and is arrested and about to be put to death for promiscuity.

Then the young Daniel interrupts the proceedings, shouting that the elders should be questioned to prevent an innocent’s death.

After being separated, the two men are cross-examined about details of what they saw. Their individual testimony was different. 

The difference in their two stories makes the elders’ lie plain to all the observers. The false accusers are put to death, and virtue triumphs.

Many famous painters have portrayed the narrative of “Susanna and the Elders.”

Gentileschi has portrayed Susanna as awkward and uncomfortable by adding a twist to Susanna’s body. Gentileschi, as a female artist, made Susanna more feminine than many of her male predecessors.

Gentileschi has used a classical style for Susanna’s body to create a heroic image. Gentileschi also attempted with her composition to explore the psychological dimension of this Biblical story.

In the biblical story, Daniel had harsh words for those who have neglected to investigate the accusation of the elders:

“Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? Return to court, for these men have given false evidence against her.’ – Susanna 48–49

Artemisia Gentileschi

‘Artemisia Gentileschi was an Italian Baroque painter in an era when the artistic community and patrons did not readily accept female painters.

She was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia in Florence. Artemisia specialized in painting pictures of women from myths, allegories, and the Bible.

Gentileschi, notoriety as a woman painter in the seventeenth century, her rape, and her courage in the prosecution of her rapist overshadowed her artistic achievements.

Fortunately, today, her art is recognized as one of the most progressive and expressive painters of her generation.

Susanna and the Elders

  • Title:                   Susanna and the Elders
  • Artist:                 Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Year:                   1610
  • Material:            oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:       Height: 170 cm (66.9″); Width: 119 cm (46.8″)
  • Type:                 Christian Art
  • Museum:          Schloss Weissenstein

Artemisia Gentileschi


Susanna and the Elders

Susannah and the Elders


A Tour of Famous Bible Paintings

Susanna and the Elders



“I am completely trapped.
For if I do this, it will mean death for me;
if I do not, I cannot escape your hands.
I choose not to do it;
I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.”

– Susanna 22–23


Photo Credit:  Artemisia Gentileschi [Public domain];

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