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Susanna and the Elders

Painting, 1610, 170×119 cm

Description of the artwork «Susanna and the Elders»

Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi was only seventeen when she, a diligent student of her father Orazio Gentileschiwrote a picture "Susanna and the Elders". Two things are striking in her. First, the extraordinarily confident and energetic manner that you least expect from a person so young. And secondly, a clear gift of the artist’s foresight: in a sense, Artemisia will very soon repeat the fate of the biblical Susanna.

Susanna (in the European tradition Susanna, in Hebrew - Shoshana) - a Jew who lived with her husband Joachim at the court of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. Like other Jews (including Daniel, the prophet), they fell into Babylon as captives, however, thanks to their talents, they were able to occupy a high position. Susanna differed rare beauty. Once, when she was bathing in the pool, she was seen by two high-ranking old men who held posts of elders or judges in the state. Lusting for Susanna and seeking closeness, they began to blackmail her. It was threatened, with all the people, to accuse the woman of adultery if she did not yield to their harassment. But Susanna preferred the gravity of the unfair charges. For imperfect crimes, the court sentenced her to death. Fortunately, the prophet Daniel was able to restore justice by interrogating the elders separately, and then together - that is, organizing something like a confrontation. For perjury, both were executed.

A similar story occurs in the “1001 nights,” but its origins are Old Testament. The legend of Susanna is not included in the canonical text of the Old Testament, but it is in the Greek translation of the Book of Daniel and exists as an apocrypha, which has become extremely popular in pictorial art since the Renaissance. Own "Holy Susanna" is at Pinturicchio and Lorenzo Lottoy Veroneseand Tiepoloy Jacopo Tintorettoand Jacopo da Ponte Bassano. After the Italians, the Dutch became interested in Susannaya - the plot is actively used by Rubens (1, 2), and Van dykeand Rembrandt. In many of these works, erotic overtones are very pronounced, but not in Artemisia! Her Susanna is above all a sacrifice, immaculate "White Lily" (this is how her name is translated from Hebrew). Gentileschi tells the story from the point of view of a woman, makes the audience empathize with her heroine.

Artemisia, like no one else, was close to the topic of violence and unfair accusation. At the age of 17-18 she was raped by the artist Agostino Tassi, her companion and friend of her father, and then for a year agreed to a relationship with Tassi, not knowing that he, firstly, was repeatedly accused of rape, and secondly, he was married. The case was made public. Seven months lasted exhausting court proceedings during which Artemisia Gentileschi, trying to prove that she lived with Tassi under duress, was subjected to a public gynecological examination, interrogation and even torture. As a result, Tassi wine has been proven. He received a year in prison, and Artemisia - a dramatic, but invaluable experience that will greatly affect her work. The themes of violence and retaliation will become dominant for the artist (will be back she and to the same plot).

Some researchers admired about the picture that here we see one of the most natural female busts in the history of art: the chest sank a little under its own weight, even the folds under the arm were written out realistically. This is a feminine approach to the transfer of nature, and to the very interpretation of the plot.

Now “Susanna and the Elders” is located in Weißenstein Castle - a magnificent Baroque palace, the pearl of Bavaria, in the collection of which there are Titian, Rubens, and Van Dyke. The picture does not fade against their background, testifying that Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the most prominent artists of the Baroque era.

Author: Anna Yesterday
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Mythological scene

Style of art: Baroque

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1610

Size: 170×119 cm

Artwork in selections: 21 selections

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