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Work: 171 x 149 cm
Frame: 192,5 x 171 cm
Depicted is the well-known Old Testament story of Susanna, the beautiful and pious wife of Joachim, a wealthy Jew in Babylonian exile. While bathing in her garden, she was spied on by two elderly men, who made in vain indecent proposals to her, whereupon, in revenge, they accused the chaste woman of adultery with a young man, completely unjustly (Daniel 13: 1-24).
This subject was one of the most popular themes of biblical iconography and was depicted countless times in early modern period painting. As an example of female chastity, the theme was of course an 'exemplum virtutis', but this biblical bathing scene was also a pretext for depicting sensual female nudes. The destination of this type of painting was mainly the relative seclusion of the bourgeois or aristocratic interior. Jordaens depicted the theme repeatedly between the thirties and the sixties of the 17th century (for an overview: R.-A. d'Hulst, N. De Poorter & M. Vandenven, Jacob Jordaens (1593-1678), cat. tent., Antwerp, 1993, pp. 270-272, no. A88).
The painting is a somewhat more detailed replica of the oldest known version that is now in the Royal Museums in Brussels and must be situated in the late 1630s on stylistic grounds (a.o. Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België. Departement Oude Kunst. Inventariscatalogus van de oude schilderkunst, Brussels, 1984, p. 158, inv. nr. 3295; R.-A. d'Hulst, Jacob Jordaens, Antwerp, 1982, p. 162, pl. 131; link and link).
In the scheme of this composition, Rubens' version of the same theme from 1614 (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum) was taken as the starting point; moreover, Jordaens has incorporated motifs from two other Suzanna scenes by Rubens (see R.-A. d'Hulst & M. Vandenven, op. cit., pl. 152, 159, 162; link and link).
The ambiguous function of the Suzanna depictions is emphatically emphasized in this version by Jordaens by the depiction, on the left, of a fountain statue under the figure of Cupid and a large peacock with a graceful tail. While the first motif refers to the erotic intentions of Suzanna's interests, the second - the attribute of Juno, the Roman patron goddess of marriage - refers to marital fidelity.
The painting is accompanied by a certificate from Hans Vlieghe from November 1997 (Emeritus Professor Dr. Hans Vlieghe (°1939) studied art history at Ghent University. He was an assistant at the Seminar for the History of the Textile Arts, conducted long periods of research in Munich, London, Florence and Rome and obtained his doctorate in 1967. He then worked as a research assistant at the National Center for the Plastic Arts of the 16th C. and 17th C., now the Center Rubenianum and from 1974 he was active as a Research Fellow and Research Director of the Flanders Scientific Research Fund. In the meantime he became a professor at the universities of Antwerp and Leuven and later full-time professor at the University of Leuven, emeritus professor in 2004. He is a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, of the board of directors of the Centrum Rubenianum (chairman, 2004-7) and of the editorial board of the Corpus Rubenianum Ludwig Burchard. Together with Katlijne Van der Stighelen he is series editor of Pictura Nova. Studies in 16th and 17th Flemish painting and drawing (since 1996). He is the author of numerous books and articles on Flemish 17th-century painting, especially on Rubens and the painters from his immediate circle, link): "In the physiognomy of the depicted figures, in the rather flabby and curvaceous appearance of the flesh parts (especially the hands), the broken folds and the muted but at the same time glowing color scheme, one recognizes very striking features of Jordaens' style. Compared to the version in Brussels, the work nevertheless makes a somewhat less lively impression, so that one should certainly think of an important participation of studio employees."
- Exposition d'oeuvres de Jordaens et de son atelier: Catalogue, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels, 1928, p. 8, no. 3 - Suzanne et les vieillards: "Un tableau du même genre avec de légères variantes se trouve chez M. Van Audenhove, Bruxelles" (a painting of the same kind with slight variations is part of the collection of M. Van Audenhove, Brussels).