Susanna and the Elders

An innocent woman resists two sexual predators, only to face a trial that reveals their guilt. 

Susanna and the Elders (detail), by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1610, Schloss Weissenstein, Pommersfelden. Wikimedia/Creative Commons.

Demonstrating brilliant technique and interpretative insight, Artemisia Gentileschi was just 17 when she first painted on a theme she would return to repeatedly. The biblical Apocrypha recounts the tale of Susanna, the beautiful wife of Joachim. She is bathing in their garden when she is surprised by two elders. The men threaten her with sexual violence and tell her that they will both accuse her of adultery if she does not submit to them. She resists and they carry out their threat. 

Susanna is brought to trial for the capital offence of adultery. She pleads her innocence, which is finally ascertained when the young Daniel interrogates the accusers separately. Their accounts differ wildly, are wholly contradictory and, as a result, Susanna walks free, virtue intact.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.