Susanna and the Elders, Restored by Artist Kathleen Gilje

Kathleen Gilje  is a US art restorer and artist best known for her technique of appropriating famous paintings in ways that juxtapose historical provenance with contemporary ideas, concepts or perspectives.

In this short clip she discusses a painting by Artemisia Gentileschi, called Susanna and the Elders, which is inspired by the story told in the book of Susanna. This book is in the Apocrypha (also called ‘the deuterocanonical books’, because it is part of the book of Daniel and in the canon of both Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches). The book of Susanna tells of a virtuous woman who is threatened with sexual assault by two elders. The story proved a popular inspiration for Baroque and Renaissance artists. Accomplished Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-c.1656) was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence. Her paintings often depict strong or suffering women, frequently drawing on mythology and the Bible. It is also known that Gentileschi was raped by her art teacher, that she attempted to fight him off with a knife, and that she participated in the prosecution of her rapist.

Gilje places Gentileschi’s painting of 1610 alongside her own painting, which is inspired by an underpainting on the canvas, which has been made visible through X-ray technology. The X-ray, supplemented by Gilje’s lead paint, shows Susanna screaming and wielding a knife. Gilje brings together the painting, the underpainting and Gentileschi’s biography with stunning effect.


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