London, art in the city
Susanna at her Bath (1850)
by Francesco Hayez
This mid-19th century depiction of the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders stood out to me from other versions I’ve seen. Hayez isolates the bathing nude, Susanna, and through the directness of her gaze makes the viewer question whether it is them or the corrupted Elders that Susanna is reacting to. Ultimately, through the conveyed disturbance of her gaze we are left knowing that we are intruders to the privacy of the moment.
This quality in my mind demonstrates the skill of the painter and his ability to blur the lines between spectator and subject, both in the setting of the gallery and the portrayed setting of her garden, consequently succeeding in establishing a dialogue between the artwork and the beholder.
The painting can be found at the National Gallery of London.