Susannah and the Elders (1610) by Artemisia Gentileschi

Susannah and the Elders - Gentileschi, Artemisia - 1610 - 3

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Artwork Information

TitleSusannah and the Elders
ArtistArtemisia Gentileschi
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions66 7/8 x 46 7/8 in (170 x 119 cm)
Art MovementBaroque
Current LocationSchloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden, Germany

About Susannah and the Elders

Artemisia Gentileschi’s painting, “Susannah and the Elders,” depicts the story of Susanna, an innocent Hebrew wife falsely accused by two judges of engaging in sexual activity with a man who was not her husband. The painting portrays a horrified Susanna in the bath, with the two judges lurking above her. Being brought up in a world dominated by men’s authority, the painting reflects how the artist perceived the constraints of her society.

By attempting to conceal her nakedness and pulling away from the judges, Susanna’s futile efforts highlight the severity of the situation. It is an early painting by the artist, executed at only 17 years of age, yet it demonstrates her exceptional talents. The painting provides a powerful depiction of a woman’s struggle against an oppressive patriarchal society, making it an important statement at the time and one that has stood the test of time.

Gentileschi’s painting illustrates an ongoing theme in art of representing women’s experiences at the hands of men, with Susanna presented as the victim of voyeuristic behavior that demonstrates a lack of respect and empathy for her. Her painting speaks to the fundamental conflict between patriarchal power structures and individual agency, a universal theme that remains relevant today.

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