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Title Susannah and the Elders
Collection Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Artist Attributed to Lely, Peter (Dutch painter and draftsman, 1618-1680, active in England)
Date Earliest about 1645
Date Latest about 1655
Description The story of Susannah is taken from an apocryphal addition to the Book of Daniel. Two old men secretly watch the beautiful Susannah as she bathes in an orchard. When she rejects their advances and cries for help, they threaten to accuse her of adultery. The elders are shown in the traditional manner as one older, grey haired, bearded man and another, less elderly, dark haired, bearded man. The three figures are shown against a dark background with a stone fountain incorporating a statue of a putti seated upon a stone sea horse (?) in the right hand corner. The horse can symbolise lust (Jeremiah: V. 8, 'They were as fed horses in the morning: everyone neighed after his neighbour's wife').
Current Accession Number 1948P23
Former Accession Number P.23´48
Subject religion (Susannah and the Elders)
Measurements 113 x 151 cm (estimate)
Material oil on canvas
Acquisition Details Given by the Feeney Bequest Fund 1948.
Provenance Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington; by descent to Henry Grafton, 1st Duke of Grafton, son-in-law to the Earl of Arlington; by descent with the Dukes of Grafton, Duke of Grafton sale, Christie's, 13 June 1923, lot 136, bought in; 10th Duke of Grafton sale, Colnaghi, 1948, bought by Feeney Charitable Trust for £600.
Principal Exhibitions Le XVIIème Siècle Européen, Rome, 1956 - 1957, cat. no. 168; Pictures from Birmingham, Agnew's, London, 1957, cat. no. 4; La Femme et l'Artiste, Bordeaux, 1964, cat. no. 44; Two Centuries of British Painting, Prague, Bratislava, 1969, cat. no. 92; Vienna, cat. no. 35.
Publications Vertue, G., 'The Notebooks of George Vertue VThe Walpole Society /i>, vol. 26, 1938, p. 34; Beckett, R. B. Peter Lely, 1951, pp. 7, 68; Waterhouse, E. K., Painting in Britain 1530 - 1790, 1953, p. 84.
Notes In style, this subject reflects the influence of Pieter de Grebber, the artist's master. Becket suggests a date of c. 1650, Waterhouse suggests a date of late 1640s. Subject pictures by Lely, who specialised in portraits, are rare. There are at least two later versions, one at Burghley House (Marquess of Exeter) and the other at the Tate Britain. Ellis Waterhouse noted that most pictures at Euston other than family portraits 'came mainly with the Dutch gift to Lord Arlington - a modest bribe!' (letter to Mary Woodall, 27 April 1948). A.C. Sewter disputes the attribution of this work to Lely in a letter to Trenchard Cox, dated 26 April 1948. However, Waterhouse considered it to be a 'most interesting early original' (letter to Mary Woodall, 27 April 1948). Whilst Sewter argues, among other issues, that Susanna's right hand is unlike any he has seen in authenticated Lelys, Waterhouse states that 'Susannah doesn't know what to do with her right hand (as Lelys of the 1640s don't)'.

Labels taken from back of painting: 1. From P. & D. Colnaghi and Co. Ltd, Printsellers and Publishers, 14, Old Bond Street, London, W.1. (the following in ink) Trenchard Cox Esq. M.A. (?) (illegible) Museum and Art Gallery. 2. The British Council/ Fine Arts Department with City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham/ Artist Lely, Sir Peter/ Title Susannah and the Elders/ Collection C.M. and A.G. Birmingham/ Exhibition Two Centuries of British Painting Prague/Bratislava 1969.

Rights Owner Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
Author Dr Patricia Smyth
 

 

 

 

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