Susanna and More

This is a yet another recap posting, similar to those about Annunciation and  Pilat’s trial, only about Susanna and her Elders. I have written a post about this Biblical story and the role mirrors played in its depiction already a while ago – see Mirrors of the Kindled Fire. I remember being surprised by then with a relatively small number of works depicting mirror in this scene, I expressed hope that I would find more examples with time.

An example above proves the case.

This Susanna and the Elders was created by Lodewijk Toeput around 1580. Originally from Flanders, he worked mainly worked in Italy, where he became known under the name il Pozzoserrato, which could be translated as ‘well-tightened’. One of the most distinguished features of his works were complex garden mazes, one of which we see here in this painting, too.

But we also see mirrors here. Right, not one, but two mirrors are placed near Susanna!

I have a slight suspicion that we see here two types of mirrors. The first one, on a foreground, is a more contemporary flat mirror, but the one behind it could be still a convex mirror. At least it seems to be round one.

I have shared this work with the Facebook community on Flemish Painters because technically speaking Lodewijk Toeput was a Flemish master. I have also shown another work there, the painting by Jacob Jordaens, created around 1653


By its full, almost explosive composition it resembles the Susannas by Rubens, but compared to them it does have a mirror, even if relatively small.


Below are few more Susannas with the Mirrors.

The panel below doesn’t have an agreed attribution and date of cretion. Some assign it to Johann König, the master from Nurnberg (1586–1642). Other argue that its style is closer to Wolfgang Heimbach, later German master (1615–1678) was working mainly in Denmark.

Interestingly, but this is the only painting that employs the garden setting, as its mirror is hanging on a branch of a tree:

Circle of Johann König (or Wolfgang Heimbach?)  - Susanna and the Elders - detail


The next work is by Italian master Francesco Trevisani (1656–1746), who is already described as late Baroque or even early Rococo artist.

Despite it is on of the latest works in this series (it could be created around the 1700-s, if not later), its mirror looks pretty archaic.  


I would expect to find this type of mirror in the much earlier works. Indeed, we find a somewhat similar hand-held mirror in the engraving by Anton, or Antonie Wierix II, one of the brothers of the famous Wierix family painters from Antwerpen.

Notice that this engraving was created almost a century before the painting by Trevisani, in c. 1580.

I have only a relatively poor copy of the painting by another Italian artist, Leandro Bassano (1557-1622)


I also suspect a mirror in the Susanna and the Elders (1652) created by Salomon Koninck (1609-1656), a less known Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Century:

Salomon Koninck was very much influenced by Rembrandt and created numerous copies or versions of his works. It is very tempting to think that the mirror he placed near Susanna was a copy of the one painted by his more famous teacher.


Rembrandt made a few different versions of the Susanna and the Elders story. Perhaps the most famous work of him is the painting completed in 1647 (now in the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin)

This work, as we can see, doesn’t contain any mirrors (unless we are ready to treat the water surface of a pond as a mirror).  The problem with this painting is that was significantly altered at some point, with almost two-thirds of the canvas washed away and re-painted. This discovery was made relatively recently, using extensive x-ray investigation of the work:

We may only suspect what exactly was there before Joshua Reynolds, then the owner of the work , decided to modernize it a bit. Could he have deleted a mirror standing somewhere near, too?

I personally like his first Susanna more. Made in 1636, it less intensive in terms of figures and actions, but much more tense psychologically, in my view:

Alas, it doesn’t contain any mirrors, either.

I have recently found a very interesting, if not bizarre work, a painting attributed to the Dutch master Lambert Sustris (1515 -1584.)  Similar to Lodewijk Toeput, he moved to Italy and is now better known as a Venitian master.

What makes this scene exceptional is that the elders here do not attack Susanna but tenderly attend, including holding a mirror for her (!) This is a very non-orthodox depiction of the subject, to say the least.

To finish, I would like to show another strange work that I found recently. This is not even a painting but a sculptural group, depicting the whole scene in 3D:

It is made around 1780-s, by the anonymous French master. The figurines are made of melted glass, and the composition is richly decorated with coral and seashells. Technically speaking, it doesn’t contain a mirror, but the whole scene is placed on a glass mirror plate, that also ‘works’ as water surface.

The artifact is now at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and should be documented better. Unfortunately, I found only this b/w copy so far.


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