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Luca Giordano was an Italian late-Baroque painter. Born in Naples, Luca Giordano studied in Rome, Parma and Venice and developed an elaborate Baroque style fusing Venetian and Roman influences.
From 1692 to 1702 Giordano served as court painter to King Charles II of Spain decorating, among other important works, the ceilings of the Escorial, the Cathedral of Toledo, and the Buen Retiro in Madrid.
Considered the leading Neapolitan painter of the 17th century, his work influenced many other artists in Italy, and he had many pupils and followers. His paintings express the drama of religious and mythological subjects in large-scale canvases and frescoes.
The present grand scale painting is a representation of a biblical narrative from chapter 13 of the Book of Daniel: two elderly men are shown spying on a young married woman named Susanna. Susanna was taking a bath in her garden when the two elders came in. The elders spied on Susanna and then demanded sexual favors from her, which she refused. To take revenge, the men decided to ruin Susanna’s reputation and falsely accused her of adultery - a crime which was punishable by stoning. The young Daniel decided to help Susanna, he questioned the elders separately, and observed that details in the two elders’ stories did not match up. Their conflicting stories revealed the falsehood of their testimony, thus clearing Susanna’s name.
The subject was relatively common in European art from the 16th century with Susanna exemplifying the virtues of modesty and fidelity. In practice however, it allowed artists the opportunity to display their skill in the depiction of female nudes, often for the pleasure of their male patrons.
According to Professor Maurizio Marini, the present work is one of four paintings executed by Antonio Carracci depicting four episodes of a famous fable. In this fable, a man and his son are accompanied by their donkey and meet constant criticism from passers-by for how they treat the donkey for leaving the elderly walking by (representing egosim of a child), or the young son walking along, for not riding it, or for overburdening their beast, when they both ride the donkey. The story’s purpose is to show that everyone
has their own opinion and there is no way one can satisfy all.
The location of three other paintings is now unknown. This painting, as Professor Marini suggested, could be dated 1615-1616, the artist’s most significant period, when he executed the frescoes in the Church of San Bartolomeo in Rome, on the Tiber Island between 1612 and 1614.
Born in Venice, Antonio was the son of the artist Agostino Carracci and a Venetian courtesan, Isabella. He first apprenticed with his father. When his father died, Antonio moved to Rome to work under his uncle Annibale from 1602 until 1609, and for whom he may have worked with other studio assistants on the frescoes in the Galleria Farnese. Later, he made a short visit to Bologna to join the workshop of Ludovico Carracci, and returned to Rome in 1610 to work with Guido Reni. In Rome, Antonio executed many important commissions, such as the decoration of three chapels in S. Barolomeo all’Isola and a fresco in one of the rooms of the Pope’s palace at Monte Cavallo commissioned by Cardinal Michelangelo Tonti, the frescoes of the Galleria Farnese.