In January 1649, the painter Diego de Velázquez left for Italy from the port of Valencia in Spain, his trip was motivated by one of the obligations he had as a painter of the king's chamber, which consisted of collecting for the monarch the works of art that he needed to decorate his multiple palaces or directly hire other artists who did it. Velázquez arrived in Genoa with the idea of acquiring some ancient sculptures and hiring the painter Pietro da Cortona, however he was unable to do either of these things and therefore headed for Venice where he planned to find works by the classical masters that would meet the demands of Philip IV.
This is how Velázquez collected a set of six canvases painted in the Renaissance period by the Venetian artist, Tintoretto. The six canvases that Velázquez bought had a landscape format and their objective was to decorate one of the rooms of the Alcázar of Madrid, possibly a bridal chamber since in all the scenes sexual implications are shown in one way or another. Among the canvases that Velázquez bought we find works such as:
On this occasion we will analyze the canvas of Susana and the old men, a theme that the Venetian painter represented up to four times. The canvas we are analyzing here measures one hundred and sixteen centimeters wide and almost sixty centimeters high and was painted in the middle of thethe 16th century, specifically in the year 1555. The story of Susana and the elders is narrated in chapter 13 of the book of Daniel and it explains how Susana, Joaquín's wife, is threatened by two old men whom she discovers were spying on her during her bath. The old men blackmail the young woman, telling her that if she does not agree to sleep with them, they will blame her for adultery. She rejects the offer and is accused however thanks to Daniel's intercession she manages to prove the truth.
On this occasion the religious theme is nothing more than a mere excuse to set the canvas in exoticism and to be able to represent a female nude. Susana appears completely naked and lying down while one of the old men lasciviously touches her and the other watches them. The work has been painted to be seen from below, which makes us think that at some point it could have been part of a commission. The fast and loose brushwork and the bright colors as it is typical of the artists of the Venetian school.