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Susanna Surprised by the Elders

The story of Susanna derives from the apocryphal Old Testament and involves Susanna, the object of the secret lust of two elders, who conspired to surprise her as she was bathing. When she was alone, the elders threatened to accuse her of adultery, unless she complied with their desires. The penalty for adultery was death, but Susanna resisted the elders and cried for help. Susanna was taken into court and, with the elders’ false testimony, was condemned to death. At that moment, Daniel came forward and conducted his own cross-examinations of each of the elders. By interviewing them separately, he drew forth so much conflicting testimony that he was able to prove Susanna’s innocence. Thus it was the elders, instead, who were condemned to death by stoning. A medieval symbol for the persecuted church, Susanna became in the Renaissance a symbol for virtue and justice. The story also became an excellent excuse for depicting female nudity. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes all four plates in this series (Eskenazi Museum of Art 68.223.1–.4).

Heinrich Aldegrever
German, 1502–ca. 1561
Susanna Surprised by the Elders from The Story of Susanna
Engraving on paper
Image: 4 9/16 x 3 1/4 in. (11.6 x 8.3 cm); sheet: 5 11/16 x 4 5/16 in. (14.5 x 11.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 68.223.1