Skip to main content
Susannah and the Elders
Guido Reni
/

An apocryphal addition to the Old Testament describes how two lecherous elders threatened to accuse Susannah, a beautiful young woman, of adultery – a crime punishable by death – if she did not give in to their desires. Guido Reni here illustrates the episode: one man grabs at Susannah’s robes and puts his fingers to his lips, commanding her silence, while the other raises a hand, ready to touch her. She grasps at her drapery, attempting to cover her breasts.

This painting hung in the Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome, in 1640, alongside Lot and his Daughters leaving Sodom, also now in the National Gallery’s collection. Given that the paintings are of a similar size, it was believed for some time that they were created as companion pieces. However, cleaning in 1984 revealed brushwork that suggests different dates for the works – Susannah and the Elders was painted later than Lot and his Daughters and the two were likely not originally intended as a pair.

Key facts
Artist Guido Reni
Artist dates 1575 - 1642
Full title Susannah and the Elders
Group Two Biblical Scenes from Palazzo Lancellotti
Date made 1620-5
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 116.6 x 150.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1844
Inventory number NG196
Location in Gallery Room 31
Download image
Download low-resolution image

Download an 800px wide, 72dpi copy of this image.

License this image

License and download a high resolution image for reproductions up to A3 size from the National Gallery Picture Library.

License image
Download low resolution image

This image is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons agreement.

Examples of non-commercial use are:

  • Research, private study, or for internal circulation within an educational organisation (such as a school, college or university)
  • Non-profit publications, personal websites, blogs, and social media

The image file is 800 pixels on the longest side.

As a charity, we depend upon the generosity of individuals to ensure the collection continues to engage and inspire. Help keep us free by making a donation today.

Yes, I'd like to donate
Or
Download low resolution image

You must agree to the Creative Commons terms and conditions to download this image.

Creative Commons Logo

Two Biblical Scenes from Palazzo Lancellotti

/

Lot and his Daughters Leaving Sodom and Susannah and the Elders are two works by Guido Reni, both of which depict biblical scenes containing three figures. They are of similar size, and are painted in a horizontal format with dark backgrounds. The two were first recorded in the Palazzo Lancellotti, Rome, in 1640, where they hung together as companion pieces until they were respectively acquired by the National Gallery in 1844.

Upon their acquisition the works were considered to be a pair, given their similarly moralising subject matter, size, and location in the Palazzo Lancellotti. However, cleaning revealed brushwork that suggests the paintings were created in different periods of Reni’s career, and were not made to hang together.

Because the two Old Testament subjects illustrate feminine vice and virtue, the pairing would seem to be deliberate. It’s possible that Reni painted Susannah and the Elders to accompany his earlier work, but it’s similarly plausible that the pairing was made by a collector much later.

;