Catalog der Erlaucht Gräflich von Harrach'schen Bildergallerie. Vienna, 1897, p. 93, no. 258, attributes this picture to Benedetto Genari.
Hermann Voss. Die Malerei des Barock in Rom. Berlin, 1924, pp. 462–63, ill. p.117, records the picture as attributed first to El Greco and later to Alessandro Allori; ascribes it to Artemisia's Neapolitan period and notes that a large number of the pictures in Graf von Harrach's collection were acquired in Naples.
Hermann Ritschl. Katalog der Erlaucht Gräflich Harrachschen Gemälde-Galerie in Wien. Vienna, 1926, p. 98, as Florentine, about 1660.
George Isarlo. Caravage et le caravagisme européen. Aix-en-Provence, 1941, p. 143.
Carlo Pietrangeli in Il Seicento europeo: realismo, classicismo, barocco. Exh. cat., Palazzo delle Esposizioni. Rome, 1956, p. 131, ascribes the picture to Artemisia's Neapolitan period, finding the group of women on the left characteristic of Neapolitan painting; notes that recent restoration has returned the work to its original dimensions.
Alfred Moir. The Italian Followers of Caravaggio. Cambridge, Mass., 1967, vol. 1, pp. 137, 177 n. 81; vol. 2, p. 73, fig. 156, recognizes vestiges of Caravaggism in the rich drapery and contrasting hues; mentions a painting of this subject by Cavallino (Uffizi, Florence) that is "perhaps derivative" of the Metropolitian picture.
R. Ward Bissell. "Artemisia Gentileschi—A New Documented Chronology." Art Bulletin 50 (June 1968), p. 162 n. 80, p. 163, fig. 20, dates it to the beginning of Artemisia's second Neapolitan period; observes that the picture is unusual for the artist as she "is not otherwise known to have painted a subject with a male personage in control"; notes that the swooning figure of Esther is unparalleled in her work; compares it to Artemisia's "Birth of Saint John" (Prado, Madrid)
Claus Virch. "European Paintings." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (October 1970), pp. 76–77, ill.
Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann. "Esther before Ahasuerus: A New Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi in the Museum's Collection." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 29 (December 1970), pp. 165–69, ill., describes the picture as a "good example of the drama and brilliance of Artemisia Gentileschi's later style," noting that it has been dated about 1640; relates the figures to similar types in Artemisia's "Birth of Saint John" (Prado, Madrid); comments on the pentimento on the left side of picture, where the artist has painted out the figure of a page; finds that this change strengthens the lines of the composition and serves to increase the physical and psychological distance between Esther and Ahasuerus.
A. Pigler. Barockthemen: Eine Auswahl von Verzeichnissen zur Ikonographie des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts. 2nd ed. [first ed. 1956]. Budapest, 1974, vol. 1, p. 200.
Eleanor Tufts. Our Hidden Heritage: Five Centuries of Women Artists. New York, 1974, p. 62, fig. 31, notes that Graf Aloys Thomas Harrach, who served as Austria's Viceroy to the Kingdom of Naples in the eighteenth century, was an enthusiastic collector of works by Artemisia and brought ourthe MMA picture back to Vienna with him.
Anthony M. Clark in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 88, ill.
Hugo Munsterberg. A History of Women Artists. New York, 1975, pp. 25–26, ill.
Karen Petersen and J.J. Wilson. Women Artists: Recognition and Reappraisal from the Early Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. New York, 1976, pp. 30, 194, ill.
Elsa Honig Fine. Women & Art: A History of Women Painters and Sculptors from the Renaissance to the 20th Century. Montclair, N.J., 1978, pp. 15–17, calls it the most important of Artemisia's Neapolitan works, noting that none of the heightened drama of her earlier pictures is present; observes that though Esther commits a heroic act, she is shown in an unheroic pose.
Germaine Greer. The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. New York, 1979, pp. 196–98, 204, ill., dates the picture to Artemisia's Roman period; refutes the assertion [see ref. Bissell 1968] that the male figure dominates the action, noting that the male figure is "in fact outnumbered by three women, to whom he is being passively drawn".
Mary D. Garrard. Artemisia Gentileschi: The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art. Princeton, 1989, pp. 70, 72–79, 91–92, 105–6, 274, 505 nn. 120–21, figs. 63 (overall), 66, and 67 (x-radiographs), dates the painting to the early 1620s, Artemisia's second Roman period, noting that the "extraordinary pictorial status given to Esther in this painting connects it with Artemisia's strongest period of female imagery"; believes the king's Caravaggesque dress would be inconsistent with mid-century Neapolitan production; argues that the tenebrist lighting, bold physical movements, and realistically rendered faces and garments place the work closer to Artemisia's "Judith" (The Detroit Institute of Arts) and "Portrait of a Gonfaloniere" (Palazzo d'Accursio, Bologna) than to her more idealized "Birth of Saint John the Baptist" in the Prado; comments on Artemisia's inclusion of Venetian references in the picture, observing that the grouping of the queen and her attendants, the queen's decoratively patterned dress, and the curved steps leading to Ahasuerus's throne recall Veronese's painting of the subject in the Louvre, Paris; notes that x-rays reveal Artemisia's placement of the characteristically Venetian motif of the page and dog between Esther and Ahasuerus, which she later overpainted; compares the work to Poussin's "Esther before Ahasuerus" in the Hermitage, suggesting that Artemisia's version, unlike Poussin's, hints at a reversal of roles, in which Esther is the reigning monarch and Ahasuerus is the "young upstart".
Susanna Stolzenwald. Artemisia Gentileschi: Bindung and Befreiung in Leben und Werk einer Malerin. Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 46, 57, 69, 92, 97, 100, 106, colorpl. 57, dates the picture 1640–45, during Artemisia's second Neapolitan period.
Olga S. Opfell. Special Visions: Profiles of Fifteen Women Artists from the Renaissance to the Present Day. Jefferson, N.C., 1991, pp. 6, 11, argues that Artemisia's "Joseph and Potiphar's Wife" (Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.) and "Esther before Ahasuerus" were both begun in 1622 and completed in 1623.
Rodney Palmer. "The Gentler Sex—and Violence: Artemisia Gentileschi at the Casa Buonarroti." Apollo 134 (October 1991), p. 280.
John T. Spike. "Florence, Casa Buonarroti." Burlington Magazine 133 (October 1991), p. 734, places it in the later 1630s and argues that Artemisia introduces into the composition a clarity and spaciousness that predicts her development in the 1640s.
Roberto Contini in Artemisia. Exh. cat., Casa Buonarroti. Rome, 1991, pp. 165–69, no. 24, ill. (color), since Artemisia's stylistic development does not follow a linear path, maintains that it is not productive to categorically examine the style of the picture; suggests that the work dates to 1636 or after, given its relationship to Artemisia's "Saints Proculus and Nicea" and "Saint Januarius in the Amphitheater" (both in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples); argues that the picture attests to Artemisia's knowledge of Florentine artists such as Rutilio Manetti.
Claire-Lise Bionda. "Artemisia Gentileschi." L'Oeil 442 (June 1992), pp. 24–28, ill. (color), dates it about 1640 and argues that the fainting figure of Esther is Artemisia's first example of a fragile heroine.
Nancy Stapen. "Who Are the Women Old Masters?" Art News 93 (March 1994), pp. 88–89, notes that this picture had not been on view in the Museum since 1974.
Mary D. Garrard. "Artemisia's Trial by Cinema." Art in America (October 1998), p. 67, ill., dates it about 1622–23; suggests this picture could have been used in Agnès Merlet's film "much more effectively to represent Artemisia's creation of strong and adult female characters".
R. Ward Bissell. Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art. University Park, Pa., 1999, pp. 69–76, 83, 112, 120, 179, 235, 241–45, 337, 339, no. 28, fig. 124 (x-ray), fig. 125, colorpl. 16, dates it about 1630–35, grouping it with Artemisia's Neapolitan pictures; does not see a necessary link between the Caravaggesque figure of Ahasuerus and an early date for this picture in Rome; acknowledges that the "setup" of this picture derives from Veronese's rendition of the subject (Louvre, Paris) and that other aspects of this picture recall the Florentine works of Rutilio Manetti and Bartolomeo Salvestrini; maintains that while this picture may "articulate a precise religious/political position," lack of patronage information restricts analysis; states that Artemisia's textual source was the Apocryphal Book of Esther; observes that scholars overstate Esther's commanding role in this picture and understate the extent to which the Queen succeeds by being an ideal woman rather than a "woman who is determined to contest these stereotypes"; finds the picture too damaged to serve as a useful basis from which to draw conclusions.
Gianni Papi. "Artemisia Gentileschi and the Authority of Art. By Roger Ward Bissell, 1999." Burlington Magazine 142 (July 2000), p. 452.
Richard E. Spear. "Artemisia Gentileschi: Ten Years of Fact and Fiction." Art Bulletin 82 (September 2000), p. 572.
Mary D. Garrard. Artemisia Gentileschi around 1622: The Shaping and Reshaping of an Artistic Identity. Berkeley, 2001, pp. 27, 132, changes her dating of this picture from the 1620s to about 1630 following Bissell's assertion [Ref. Bissell 1999] that Ahasuerus's Caravaggesque costume does not necessarily indicate that the picture was produced in Rome; suggests that "the ornamental Caravaggism" might have appealed to a "retardataire taste".
Judith W. Mann et al. in Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi. Exh. cat., Museo del Palazzo di Venezia, Rome. New York, 2001, pp. 315, 342, 373–77, 398, 404, no. 71, ill. (color), fig. 131 (x-ray) [Italian ed., "Orazio e Artemisia Gentileschi," Skira, Milan, 2001], date it about 1628–35, suggesting it was reworked at the beginning of the 1630s; observe that Artemisia's imagery derives from Greek additions to the original Hebrew narrative, used in the seventeenth century after the Council of Trent gave them canonical status in 1546; note that the picture was modeled after Veronese's painting of the subject (Louvre, Paris), which the artist could have seen on her Venetian sojourn; conclude that the extraordinary number of changes to the picture attest to the difficulty Artemisia encountered in "satisfactorily resolving the composition".
Karen Wilkin. "The Gentileschi." New Criterion 20 (April 2002), p. 47, describes it as "an awkward painting as notable for the unconvincing, mannered postures of its protagonists as it is for the bravura rendering of their gorgeous costumes".
Andrée Hayum. "Orazio & Artemisia." Art in America (September 2002), pp. 105, 111, 145, ill. color, dates it about 1628–35 and considers it characteristic of Artemisia's Neapolitan pictures: "often vast in scale, deploying large figures and elaborate architectural staging, at times straining the limits of her compositional skills".
Ann Landi. "Who Was the Real Artemisia?" Art News 101 (February 2002), p. 113, notes that Artemisia's "specialty. . . was strong and heroic women" and mentions the present picture and subject as an example of this type.
Linda Borean and Isabella Cecchini. "Microstorie d'affari e di quadri: i Lumaga tra Venezia e Napoli." Figure di collezionisti a Venezia tra Cinque e Seicento. Udine, 2002, p. 211.
Mauro Natale in Cléopâtre dans le miroir de l'art occidental. Exh. cat., Musée Rath. Geneva, 2004, pp. 110, 112, ill. (color, overall and detail).
Luciano Arcangeli. "Sulla 'Samaritana al pozzo' proposta in vendita da Artemisia Gentileschi ai Cardinali Barberini." I Barberini e la cultura europea del Seicento. Rome, 2007, p. 251, notes that it must precede Artemisia's painting of Christ and the Samaritan Woman (private collection), which can be dated by letter to 1637.
Richard McBee. "Esther in Venice—In Search of Images of Esther." Jewish Press. March 11, 2009, ill. (color) [http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/38535], describes Artemisia's Esther as swooning "in a totally calculated manner, her eyes momentarily closed for effect, more theater than emotional crisis, and thoroughly designed to manipulate the foppish king before her. It is Esther at her most powerful".
Nicola Spinosa. "Da Caravaggio a Massimo Stanzione." Pittura del Seicento a Napoli. 1, [Naples], 2010, p. 304, no. 252, ill.
Rodolfo Maffeis in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, pp. 73–74, 77 nn. 62, 65 [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"].
Roberto Contini in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, pp. 102, 105, 107 n. 7, p. 200 [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"].
Francesco Solinas in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, p. 176 [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"].
Jesse Locker in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, pp. 192–95, no. 26, ill. (color, overall and detail) [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"], dates it about 1626–29.
Luciano Arcangeli in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, p. 210 [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"].
Nicola Spinosa in Artemisia Gentileschi: storia di una passione. Exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan. Pero (Milan), 2011, p. 224 [English ed., "Artemisia Gentileschi: The Story of a Passion"].
Gianni Papi. "Artemisia Gentileschi's 'Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me'." Burlington Magazine 154 (December 2012), p. 831, fig. 4 (color).
Nicola Spinosa. Grazia e tenerezza "in posa": Bernardo Cavallino e il suo tempo, 1616–1656. Rome, 2013, pp. 98, 340, 400, fig. 39a.
Jesse M. Locker. Artemisia Gentileschi: The Language of Painting. New Haven, 2015, pp. 73–76, 78–83, 149, 203 n. 19, p. 212 n. 72, figs. 3.1 (color), 3.9, 5.27 (color details), 3.10 (X-radiograph), suggests that it dates from about 1627–29, when Artemisia was in Venice, and that it reflects her association with literary circles in which the nature of women was among the topics discussed; notes the compositional relationship to the painting by the workshop of Veronese in the Musée du Louvre but also remarks on stylistic traits in common with the work of Rutilio Manetti (1571–1639) and sees a comedic intention in the treatment of the king deriving from theatrical practice.