Scala/Art Resource, New York, N.Y.

Susanna in ivory (12th–15th century). Artists have used many different media—including painting, music and drama—to depict the Susanna story. Small as this carved comb is, we can see the purity and happiness of Susanna (center) and her maids (center and right) in their expressions and gestures, and the coarseness of the conspirators skulking in the trees at the left.

Simplicity may be one reason artists focused on Susanna at her bath rather than on other parts of the story. To people familiar with Bible stories, a scene showing a naked woman watched by two clothed men would represent Susanna and the Elders, just as a man with a knife poised over a bound child would represent Abraham and Isaac.