Hebrew Archive

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Towards the end of the fifteenth century, silver-stained and painted roundels became quite common in the in houses in the Low Countries and Germany (see e.g. in the Diptych of Maarten Nieuwenhove by Hans Memling). Susanna and the Elders comes from the circle of Aert van Ort and it illustrates the opening episode of the Old Testament story in which the beautiful and virtuous Susanna attracts the lustful attention of two elders. This was probably paired with another window or two illustrating the story’s conclusion. Hundreds of roundels survive, suggesting that this form of relatively inexpensive domestic art enjoyed great popularity.

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The current depiction Susanna and the Elders is very much celebrated subject in artistic circles painted by many painters including Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt and Pablo Picasso. The attracting aspects of the story of Susanna and the Elders are the maliciousness of a human mind, the weakness of innocence and the triumph of virtue at the very end. The besiegement of the chaste and virtuous Hebrew wife Susanna by two elders is the opening scene of the story. According to the myth, when Susanna was taking bath in a garden the two elders were peeping over her. On her way back they asked for sex or threatened to tell everybody that she was meeting another man in the garden. When she refused, the elders disgraced […]

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