Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
New York, Julien Levy Gallery, Tamara de Lempicka, 1941, no. 3
Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Center, Tamara de Lempicka, 1942, no. 3
Rome, Académie de France (Villa Medici), Tamara de Lempicka, tra eleganza e trasgressione, 1994, no. 54, illustrated in the catalogue
Tokyo, Isetan Museum; Hiroshima, Museum of Fine Arts; Nagoya, Matsuzakaya & Osaka, Daimaru Museum, Tamara de Lempicka, 1997, no. 51, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, La Pinacothèque de Paris, Tamara de Lempicka, la Reine de l’Art déco, 2013, no. 91, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Giancarlo Marmori, Tamara de Lempicka. Les œuvres majeures de Tamara de Lempicka 1925 à 1935, Paris, 1978, mentioned p. 7
Germaine Bazin & Hiroyuki Itsuki, Tamara de Lempicka, Tokyo, 1980, no. 86, illustrated pp. 147 & 239
Wolfgang Joop, Tamara de Lempicka, Träume von Mythen und Moden, Offenburg, 1987, mentioned p. 21
Alain Blondel, Lempicka Catalogue Raisonné 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, no. B.207, detail illustrated in colour p. 298; illustrated in colour p. 299
Suzanne au bain takes as its subject the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, in which Susanna is ambushed by two elders of her community whilst bathing. They threaten to report her for adultery unless she submits to them - but she bravely refuses. Arrested and condemned to death following their accusations, she is rescued by a young Daniel who challenges the elders and exposes them as liars. In Suzanne au bain Lempicka offers her own, very contemporary, interpretation of the story. Choosing not to show the two old men, she makes Suzanne the focus of the composition; her figure fills the canvas, with the only suggestion of narrative confined to the elegantly modelled folds of the cloth that she rests on. Although exuding a softer sensuality, Susanna shares the same strong features and sculptural arabesques that characterise Lempicka’s celebrated nudes of the 1920s (fig. 3). This distinctly modern handling allows Lempicka to place the emphasis on the heroic female element of the story, transforming the painting into both a celebration of the female body and a tale for the modern age.
Susanna and the Elders was a common subject during the Renaissance (fig. 2) and is one of a number of biblical subjects that Lempicka painted during the late 1930s that reflect an increasing interest in Renaissance models. Lempicka might have been influenced in this by her marriage in 1933 to Baron Kuffner de Dioszegh who had inherited a large collection of Italian and Flemish Old Masters, but the masters of the past had been a source of inspiration throughout her career. Ingried Brugger writes: ‘De Lempicka’s ideal of the human form was perhaps less influenced by Ingres… than by the artists of the high and later Renaissance. The hypertrophied bodily forms of Michelangelo were a rich source of ideas for her. Ingres’ canon of arrested affects, his timeless poses and the shimmering surfaces of his paintings did, nevertheless, leave an unmistakeable mark on De Lempicka’s work. And the productive interplay in her paintings between Ingres and the plastic excess of the faces, figures and draped fabrics of the Renaissance led to a constant toing and froing of stasis and motion, inertia and vitality’ (I. Brugger in Tamara de Lempicka. Art Deco Icon (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts London, 2004, p. 32).
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