Susana and the old men, Ribera

Susana and the old men, Ribera
Susana and the old men, Ribera

The canvas of Susana and the old men is one of the lesser-known works of the Spanish artist José de Ribera, it is one of his youthful works and yet until recently the canvas had been attributed to the painter. In the canvas, Ribera offers us a model of virtue based on the Old Testament at the same time that he presents us with the damage that sin can cause, in this case lust.


José de Ribera, better known in his time as Lo Spagnoletto (1591 – 1652), the son of a modest family, it seems that the artist began his training in Francisco Rib alta's workshop, although no work from this period is preserved However, the most decisive event for his professional career was traveling to Italy following in the footsteps of the great Renaissance masters and the Caravaggio tenebrism of which Ribera was a great admirer. After some time traveling through the different regions of Italy, Ribera settles definitively in Naples where he will spend the rest of his life. There he became one of the most representative painters of his time, despite being a foreigner which always caused some suspicion, and he worked for some of the most prominent patrons of the time; his fame crossed the border beyond Italy or Spain where his canvases will deeply influence artists of the stature of Velázquez or Murillo.

However, and this time there are not many data that we have about thiscanvas, it seems that the work of Ribera Susana and the old men could have been painted around the year 1615. The work belongs to a private collection and until a few years ago it was thought that its author was Pietro Paolini, a second-rate baroque artist who followed the tenebrist aesthetic of Caravaggio and was the promoter of the Lucca naturalist school. However, at present and after multiple studies of the canvas, Ribera's authorship seems indisputable.

The artist presents us with a scene based on the texts of the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. They tell how Susana while she was bathing was harassed by some old judges who wanted to have sexual relations with her, when she refused she was accused of adultery and sentenced to death. Thanks to the intervention of the prophet Daniel, Susana was able to prove her innocence and the judges were put to death.

The artist depicts a voluminous and nudeyoung woman in the foreground who scrupulously coversher body from the lascivious gaze of the old men who peek behind a wall and They try to touch her. The whitish skin of the young woman contrasts with the old men that the artist has depicted bathed in a darker light. Next to Susana, a fountain representing Susana's trial has been added -it is believed later-.

Special mention deserves the artist's ability to capture the feelings of the characters establishing a contrast between the lasciviousness reflected in the faces of the old people and the fear and repulsion of theyoung.

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