Susannah and the Elders
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (Venice 1675 - Venice 1741)
The subject depicted is taken from Susannah 15-24 in the biblical subsidiary book of Apocrypha or from the Old Testament’s Daniel (13) depending on a Jewish (Hebrew) and Protestant or Catholic (Vulgate) point of view. It shows the attempt of two elders of the Synagogue to seduce a virtuous Hebrew wife, Susannah whilst she was bathing in a secluded spot with no witnesses. They attempt to blackmail her and she is arrested and about to be put to death for promiscuity when Daniel comes to the rescue with an irrefutable challenge over the size and type of tree she allegedly met her lover. It was popular with artists from the Renaissance onwards giving them the opportunity of showing the female nude body, piquantly contrasted with the physiognomies of old age. Indeed the Venetian Pellegrini was fond of the episode and painted several versions throughout his life. This is regarded as a relatively early work by him, possibly before he came to England in 1708.
Oil painting on canvas, Susannah and the Elders by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (Venice 1675 - Venice 1741), circa 1708 (before his visit to England) or 1713/16. All three-quarter-length figures: a rather plump Susannah, seated under a tree, sits on the right, naked but for a cache-sexe of drapery and pulling another piece towards her breasts, fends off a gesticulating Elder, approaching from the left, with her right hand; the profile head and shoulders of the other Elder appear over her arm, between the two. The story depicted her is regarded as apocryphal by Protestants but is included in the biblical book of Daniel (13) by the Roman Catholic and Easter Orthodox churches.
Possibly Cremer collection, Dortmund, sold Berlin 25 May 1929 (138) or Magnin collection, Paris; acquired by Ralph Dutton in 1961; bequeathed to the National Trust by Ralph Stawell Dutton, with the rest of the collections, house, gardens and estate of Hinton Ampner.
Hinton Ampner, The Ralph Dutton Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (Venice 1675 - Venice 1741), artist
Hussey 1965 Christopher Hussey, “Hinton Ampner House, Hampshire.” Country Life, 10 June 1965, pp.1424-8, p.1426, fig.7