Susanna in the Bath Albrecht Altdorfer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Susanna in the Bath tackles a common theme but the artist inserts his own style upon it with a sprawling landscape scene and highly ornate architectural structure.


In truth, there was no real need to actually add so much background detail when considering the traditional story as it is. But this artist simply could not resist - after all Albrecht Altdorfer is still considered to have been the very first modern landscape artist and so his passion for this genre could never be questioned. It was as if he could not help himself but to include features of the Bavarian countryside within his paintings, whichever the chosen theme of the piece.


Susanna herself is visible in the bottom left of the composition along with several maids. The artist then makes use of a tall tree to frame the overall scene from the left hand side which he frequently did in his vertically designed landscape paintings (let so in his drawings that tended to be horizontal instead). It is clear that the artist chose not to allow her to dominate this painting in anyway, she almost appears to be more of an afterthought in order to provide a specific topic of content amidst the overall composition.

The artist puts an unusually large amount of detail into the building work plus also its perspective which dominates this work. In the background he constructs a bright sky scene that helps to make the building itself stand out even more. As a reasonably large painting, those lucky enough to view the original will be able to appreciate the architectural detail more closely.

In terms of the subject matter, we find Susanna wandering off to the right hand side, as she prepares to climb a flight of stairs. Other women can be found relaxing behind her. Susanna holds a large lily in her left hand, and a large jug in the right. The flower specifically symbolises innocence.

Bold Colour

Susanna in the Bath provides another example of the artist's extraordinary use of colour, which was not entirely in line with European artists of the 15th and 16th century. Simply put, his tones were bright and bold, and feel somewhat contemporary to a modern eye, even though he was working in the Northern Renaissance. The tones of green and blue persist throughout much of his work, because of his focus on landscape elements, and in this example they work brilliantly against the simpler colours of the architecture which lines the other vertical side of the composition.

Painting Details

Susanna and the Elders by Albrecht Altdorfer was completed in 1526, using oil on wooden panel. The dimensions of the piece are 74.8 cm × 61.2 cm and it now resides in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich, where it has undergone several phases of restoration over the course of its lifetime.

Expertise in Architecture

Altdorfer was not only a visual artist. He worked as a local politician, hoping to use some of his cultural knowledge to the benefit of his community. He also worked as an architect, and would use much of this knowledge to adorn some of his paintings with similar content. He was inspired by Italian architecture, and would sometimes instruct his studio to work on his paintings whilst he concentrated on other disciplines such as this.

It is notable in Susanna in the Bath as to how he chose to reduce his landscape and allow the architecture to take centrestage. In other examples, he would not take this course, and perhaps was continuing to strive for variety within his oeuvre. In fact, this composition is quite unusual within his impressive back catalogue of work, but just as impressive as his other fine pieces.

Large Images of the Painting and a Drawing

Susanna in the Bath in Detail Albrecht Altdorfer Susanna in the Bath in Detail

Susanna in the Bath Drawing in Detail Albrecht Altdorfer Susanna in the Bath Drawing in Detail Albrecht Altdorfer