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Laurits Tuxen (Denmark 1853-1927)

Susanna at her Bath

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale Week 6 – 9 December 2022

Lot 490 Laurits Tuxen (Denmark 1853-1927). Susanna at her Bath. Signed and dated lower right L Tuxen London 1892. Oil on canvas, 92 x 187 cm.


500.000 – 700.000 SEK
€ 46.000 – 65.000


Stockholms Auktionsverk, 4-6 June 2003, cat. no. 2472.
A Swedish private collection.


Lisa Svanholm, Laurits Tuxen, Europas sidste fyrstemaler: en monografi, 1990,
compare with another version of the motif, dated 1895, 45 x 91 cm, p. 112.

In context

Laurits Tuxen’s version of the mythical legend of Susanna at her Bath

The motif of “Susanna at her Bath” or “Susanna and the Elders” was a fascinating theme that became of great importance in the oeuvre of the Danish painter Laurits Tuxen. Throughout his career he interpreted the scene in several different versions, the first one even marking the triumph of his breakthrough when exhibited in 1879. As the son of a naval officer, Tuxen originally aspired for a career as a marine painter and combined his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts with further education by Holger Drachmann. At the academy Tuxen befriended Peder Severin Krøyer with whom he was counted as the most talented and promising students. This led them both to Paris and the studio of Léon Bonnat where he embraced the French technique and painterly style that he would further develop throughout his life. Active during a time of change, Tuxen became one of the leading Danish artists that aimed for alterations in the education at the academy in the 1880s. As a reaction against the traditionalists and the outdated teachings he and some fellow dissatisfied students founded Kunstnernes Frie Studieskoler as an alternative. This new place for art studies proclaimed a modern education that was looking at the future instead of the history. Tuxen became the school’s first director and P.S. Krøyer one of its teachers. 

During the 1880s and 1890s Tuxen gained recognition for his expertise in figure painting, which led him to the courts around Europe. He was commissioned to paint the portraits of the leading royal families, such as those of Christian IX of Denmark, Queen Victoria and the wedding of Tsar Nicolas II of Russia in 1895. Tuxen, who had visited Skagen for the first time in 1870, was eventually going to follow his artist friends to the beloved little city by the sea that was to gather the most famous artist colony in Scandinavia to paint plein air. In 1901 Tuxen and his wife bought a cottage in Skagen that earlier had housed both Viggo Johansen’s family and the Krøyer’s. From this time and forward Tuxen mainly found his inspiration in the milieu of the lovely life around him. The beauty of Skagen was captured in breathtaking views from the sea and beaches and intimate scenes from the family’s daily life of the Tuxen home that had been conveyed from a cottage into a summer villa, romantically named Villa Dagminne. As a member of the artist’s colony, Tuxen was also one of the founders of the Skagen Museum in the year of 1908.

The story of Susanna at her Bath comes from the Apocryphal Book of Daniel, dated circa 600 B.C. As a most beautiful and virtuous woman, Susanna, wife of Joakim, a rich and respected member of the Jewish community in Babylon, decides to take a cool bath in her garden on a hot day. She is approached by two corrupt elders with illicit desires who, lusting after her, threaten to accuse her of adultery with a young man if she does not give into them. She refuses and cries out in despair and as the alarmed maids arrive, the elders falsely accuse Susanna. Because of the elder’s reputation and prestige, everybody believes them, and Susanna is condemned to death. She prays to the Lord, asking God to come to her rescue. Her prayer is heard, as the Lord fills a youth named Daniel with holy spirit, who proves her innocence when the elders contradict each other’s confessions, and Susanna’s reputation is reestablished. The subject became a favourite motif in the art world and has been interpreted by many acclaimed artists throughout the years. 

When Tuxen painted his first version of the motif in 1879 it gained recognition for its excellent modelling of the naked female figure. In that version, 116 x 90 cm, Susanna is centrally placed in the image protected by her maid with the two elders gazing over a stone wall, the surrounding around her is quite dark with the light concentrated to the female body. The painting offered at this sale differs a lot from the first version. In a monumental, elongated format we meet Susanna in the moonlit romantic evening light by the poolside on a beautiful roof terrace. The scene is much more dramatic with the elders standing right behind the sofa she is sitting at. Towards her is also another woman rushing into the image, carrying what seems to be two Chinese vases, a blue and white and one monochrome yellow, really capturing a moment of true desperation. Signed and dated in London 1892, it is clearly visible that Tuxen has developed into a virtuous master of the arts. The colour tones of different blues, pink, yellow and white dominates the image and draws the attention to the essence of the beauty with the wavy shimmering red hair that is crouching into protection in the arms of her friend, trying to cover her with a blue silk fabric. The paintings also recall the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood that had found their inspiration in the renaissance and medieval art and joined their imagery with a strong commitment in the contemporary social challenges of the time, concentrating on the eternal questions about love, passion, betrayal and death. The drama of “Susanna at her Bath” offers an opportunity to acquire a true majestic masterpiece by Laurits Tuxen.

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