Lecture 003 Reading - Artemisa & Susanna.docx

2 Pages
Unlock Document

Western University
Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2158A/B
Sonia Halpern

Lecture 003 Reading – Artemisa and Susanna Notes Mary D. Garrard Susanna and the Elders (Artemisia Gentileschi) - The painting’s unorthodox interpretation of the biblical theme of Susanna and the Elders, is of wider significance, for both Artemis’s art and her life - Presents the central confrontation between the principal characters, the moment when the two Elders return to the garden to seduce Joachim’s wife, Susanna. - In Gentileschi’s painting, the position of Susanna’s arms has been decisively changed, and her image accordingly revised, from that of a sexually available and responsive female to an emotionally distressed young woman, whose vulnerability is emphasized in the awkward twisting of her body. The artist has also eliminated the sexually allusive garden setting, replacing the lush foliage, spurting fountain and sculptured satyr heads that appear in the Carraci circle work with an austere rectilinear stone balustrade that subtly reinforces our sense of Susanna’s discomfort. - The expressive core of this picture is the heroine’s plight, not the villain’s anticipated pleasure. - Legitimized voyeurism - It is a remarkable testament to the indomitable male ego that a biblical theme holding forth an exemplum of female chastity should have become in painting a celebration of sexual opportunity. - Even when a painter attempted to convey some rhetorical distress on Susanna’s part, he was apt to offset it with a graceful pose whose chief effect was the display of a beautiful nude. - The prevailing pictorial treatment of the theme typically included an erotically suggestive garden setting and a partly nude Susanna, whose body is prominent and alluring, and whose expressive range runs from protest of a largely rhetorical nature to the hint of outright acceptance. - Covert subject of the Susanna theme in Western art is not seduction, but rape, imagined by artists – and presumably also by their patrons and customers – as a daring and noble adventure. - Those artists who have glamorized the act of rape, deemphasizing or leaving undeveloped the reaction of the victim, have at least acted in consonance with the masculine bias of the creators of the Greek myths (such as Paris and Helen). o Susanna, however, as a potential rape victim who emphatically halted the proceedings, is a rare heroine in biblical mythology – her unusually well-defined resistance throws into bold relief the extent to which she has been distorted into a half-willing participant. - Susanna’s total fidelity to Joachim is demonstrated in her willingness to accept death rather than dishonour him by yielding to the Elders. Her resistance is heroic because she faces danger; it is not complicated by any conflict of feeling toward her oppressors, and she is crucial to the story, flat character that she is, in the absoluteness of her resolve, her virtue and her honesty. - Both the patristic and the artistic conceptions of Susanna, whether as an Eve triumphant over her own impulses or as a voluptuous sex object who may not bother to resist, are linked by the same erroneous assumption: that Susanna’s dilemma was whether or not to give in to her sexual instincts. - A sexually exploitative and morally meaningless interpretation of the theme has prevailed, most simply, because most artists and patrons have been men, drawn by instinct to identify more with the villains than with the heroine. - There have occasionally been versions of the Susann
More Less

Related notes for Women's Studies 2158A/B

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.