Susanna and the Elders
This frequently painted subject is taken from an appendix to the Book of Daniel. The two elders, obsessed by the beauty of a young woman called Susanna, decide to take her by surprise her while she is bathing in her garden, saying that she enticed them, and thus ruin her reputation. The painter has dramatised the scene: Suzanne is in danger of being raped, as we can see from the lustful expression of the old men and the crude brutality of their gestures. The young woman’s refusal can be seen in her terrified look, the tension in her face and the energy in her hands as she pushes the aggressors away.
In the Renaissance, stories of martyrs or episodes from the Bible often served as a pretext for artists to paint beautiful nudes. In 1561, the year this was painted, Alessandro Allori returned from a six-year stay in the Eternal City. The monumental stature of the old man on the left shows the influence of Michelangelo. But the style of the work is more Florentine: the clearly defined contours and the body of Susanna are reminiscent of the models of Bronzino, Allori’s master.
The vivid acid tones - yellow and blue-green - the smooth, meticulous brushwork, the realism of the faces, the anecdotal presence of the dog, the luxurious fabrics and the hair ornaments, are taken from the Flemish art in the Medici collections in Florence. The lavish decoration, wealth of motifs and the sinuous line of the body, all add to this typical “art for art’s sake” of the Mannerist movement.