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Ludovico Carracci, 'Susannah and the Elders', 1616

Key facts
Full title Susannah and the Elders
Artist Ludovico Carracci
Artist dates 1555 - 1619
Date made 1616
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 146.6 × 116.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1824
Inventory number NG28
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Susannah and the Elders
Ludovico Carracci

A young woman crouches in the bottom right-hand corner, trying to cover her nakedness with her cloak, while two bearded men leer at her and pull at her clothes. This is Susannah, an Old Testament heroine. Bathing one hot day in her husband’s garden, she was seen by two elders – senior members of the Jewish community – who threatened to accuse her of adultery if she did not sleep with them.

The subject was popular with collectors of the period as it offered an excuse for depicting a partly clothed female figure who could be admired without too much guilt. This is a late work by Ludovico, cousin of Agostino and Annibale Carracci. His composition and lighting dramatise the scene. Susannah is brightly lit, emphasising her moral superiority to the shadowy elders and the figures are crammed together and seen close up, adding to the intensity of the scene.

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