Susanna and the Elders

Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558–1617)


138 x 104 cm (54 5/16 x 40 15/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Oil on canvas

On View

Art of the Netherlands in the 17th Century Gallery (Gallery 242)





Tales about morally righteous women, many from the Old Testament, became popular subjects among the Protestant Dutch, who held virtue in high esteem. Goltzius’s painting recounts the story of Susanna, beautiful and pious, discovered bathing in her garden by two lecherous elders. When she spurned their advances, they claimed to have found her with a lover. Their statement was ultimately revealed at court to be a lie, and Susanna was exonerated. Here the portrait-like character of the elders’ faces is surprising. The fountain may allude to their lustful thoughts—the dolphin is a traditional symbol of expectant desire.


Monogrammed and dated 1615


Probably between about 1745 and 1760, acquired by Queen Lovisa Ulrika of Sweden (b. 1720 - d. 1782), Stockholm. By 1901 until at least 1911, Anton Ridderstad (b. 1848 - d. 1933), Berga, Linköping, Sweden. October 31, 1927, sale, Bukowski, Stockholm, sold to Hammarlöf for 2600 kroner. By 1930, Otto Meyerson (dealer); about 1936, sold by Meyerson to a private collection, Sweden and later Lugano, Switzerland, where it remained until 1993. By 1996, Galerie Sanct Lucas, Vienna; 2000, sold by Galerie Sanct Lucas to the MFA. (Accession Date: October 25, 2000)

Credit Line

Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund