Johann Carl Loth trained in Munich under his father, Johann Ulrich, with whom he is first thought to have come into contact with examples of seventeenth century Roman painting. In his early twenties he went to Italy, initially to Rome and then to Venice, where he had settled by 1656. He worked first in the studio of Pietro Liberi and then Giovanni Battista Langetti, both of whom exerted a lasting influence on his art. Loth's own studio was visited in 1688 by the Swedish architect Nicodemus Tessin, who (in a journal) recorded seeing the artist surrounded by paintings by Tintoretto, Bassano and Veronese, making evident the extent of his debt to the Venetian cinquecento masters.
The subject of this picture was treated with regularity by painters in Venice, who were no doubt attracted both by its moralising theme and the pictorial possibilities it afforded, with the central image of a female nude in the act of bathing. Germs for the idea of Loth's picture can be gleaned from at least five painted versions by Veronese, two by Tintoretto and works like Bassano's picture of circa 1555-6, in which the elders are shown pleading with a reclining Susanna in a landscape (Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada). In this example, Loth brings to the subject a splendid sense of movement and theatricality by adopting a low, advanced viewpoint and employing dynamic poses for each of the three protagonists. The menacing, conspiratorial look from the figure on the right is particularly effective. Ewald lists three other versions of the subject by Loth, including one of the same dimensions but different in composition, in the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, Venice (G. Ewald, Johann Carl Loth, Amsterdam, 1965, p. 68, no. 113, pl. 52.)
We are grateful to Professor Ugo Ruggeri for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.