Art and Images in Psychiatry |

Susanna and the Elders

James C. Harris, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(9):992. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.65.9.992.
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Early in 1612, Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639) petitioned Pope Paul V, seeking the prosecution of Agostino Tassi (1578-1644) for sexual assault:

Although Artemisia was raped, the charge was not rape but forceful “defloration” that robbed his now 17-year-old daughter of her virginity and ruined her prospects for a respectable marriage. The sexual assault occurred 10 months earlier in May 1611, but Orazio delayed pressing charges, hoping to work out an arrangement with Tassi, who initially had promised to marry Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652) but later refused. Tassi denied that he had sexual relations with Artemisia and accused her of being a whore and having sex with many men; at the trial, he called false witnesses to attest to this. The verbatim transcript of the trial is available to modern readers in the Vatican archives.2

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Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1652), Italian. Susanna and the Elders, 1610. Oil on canvas, 66⅞ × 46⅞ in (170 × 119 cm). Collection Graf von Schönborn, Pommersfelden, Germany. Photo: akg-images/Electa, London, England.

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