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Susanna and the Elders

Tintoretto1555/1556

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Every day the wife of the wealthy Joakim, Susanna, went into the orchard totake a bath. Before long she inflamed the secret lust of two of her husband’s guests: “[…] they perverted their own mind and turned away their eyes that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.” (Sus. 1:9.) One day the two judges were lying in wait for her, but Susanna rejected their wish to lie with her. Driven by their desire for revenge, they accused Susanna of adultery. She had already been condemned to death when the young Daniel questioned the accusers separately about the particular circumstances of the actand thus exposed them as liars. Susanna was rehabilitated while the two old men were sentenced to death. Subtly lit and in a setting of richly varied chiaroscuro, Susanna’s beauty occupies the foreground of the painting. Absorbed in her mirror image, she is yet unaware of the two intruders – unlike the viewer, who is thus forced into the position of a voyeur. Distorted perspectives, strong light contrasts and the dynamic retreat into the depths of the vast orchard are characteristics of Mannerism, and Tintoretto became its most prominent Venetian exponent. In an impressive manner, the Italian painter relegates the educational potential of the tale to the background, although from the viewpoint of the Catholic Church it would have been of compelling necessity to emphasise it. The animal symbolism, understood only by insiders, hardly reduces the sensuous pleasures: the stag at the left rear stands for lust, the ducks are reminders of fidelity, and the magpie sitting on a branch above Susanna’s head is a reference to the imminent slander of the protagonist. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery. A Brief Guide to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2010

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Details

  • Title: Susanna and the Elders
  • Creator: Jacopo Robusti, called Tintoretto
  • Date Created: 1555/1556
  • Style: Italian Mannerism
  • Provenance: Before 1712 in the Gallery
  • Physical Dimensions: w1936 x h1460 cm (without frame)
  • Inventory Number: GG 1530
  • Artist Biography: Jacopo Tintoretto was nicknamed "little dyer" for his father's humble occupation of tintore, a dyer, and il Furioso for his violent application of paint. When Venetian dignitaries observing him asked why he worked much faster than others, the artist quipped, "Because they haven't got so many pests around to drive them crazy." Tintoretto's early training is unknown. Legend claims that an envious Titian expelled his talented pupil after ten days. Following collaboration with Andrea Schiavone and others on cassone panels, Tintoretto introduced a similar time-saving, economical technique into monumental painting--and garnered criticism for lack of finish. Above all, Tintoretto wanted to display his work. He regularly painted frescoes and canvases for his materials' cost or for nothing. When a confraternity asked artists to submit sketches for a painting in 1564, Tintoretto brought a finished picture as a gift. His low prices invited commissions throughout the confraternity's building. Except for visiting Mantua around 1580, Tintoretto stayed in Venice, where his dramatic, colorful Mannerist style eventually dominated. He painted mostly religious subjects. His pictures show unexpected viewpoints and striking perspective, while many subordinate scenes recall everyday life. He also made many portraits and taught two sons and a daughter in his workshop. ©J. Paul Getty Trust
  • Type: paintings
  • External Link: http://www.khm.at/en/collections/picture-gallery
  • Medium: Oil on Canvas

Additional Items

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

Susanna and the Elders (Supplemental)

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