Top: Tintoretto, Susanna and the Elders, 1555- 56

Bottom: Artimissia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610

Here we have two paintings dealing with the same subject, yet done in very different ways. Gentileschi is known to represent heroic women instead of a passive beauty. The Tintoretto is typical of male European oil painters: Susanna is caught bathing by the Elders and she is being looked at by them, unbeknownst to her. They are the voyeur spectator, and you could even say that the “blame” is being placed on her because she is looking into a mirror, which is a symbol of vanity; she is even looking at herself. Looking at herself, gives us the “permission” to look at her as an object as well, if one follows this train of thought to its logical conclusion. On top of this, the fact that she is not staring out of the frame implicates the viewer with the Elders. The viewer of the painting is also a voyeur of her fetishsized and languid body.

Gentileschi’s portrayal on the other hand shows Susanna in the moment of her discovery of the Elders. Her body is contorted and she is reacting to the Elders, which takes away the erotic feel of the painting (unlike Tintoretto’s depiction). The drapery is also not used in an erotic way. The overal discomfort carries over to the viewer.

Basically Gentileschi was awesome and was able to paint even when women were not admitted to the Royal Academy.


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    I fell in love with Gentileschi after I read Edward Lucie-Smith & Judy Chicago’s Women & Art: Contested Territory and...
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