Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, Roman, 15931651/53)
Oil on canvas; 82 x 107 3/4 in. (208.3 x 273.7 cm)
Gift of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, 1969 (69.281)
This picture illustrates the Old Testament story of the Jewish Queen Esther who appeared, unbidden, before King Ahasuerus, risking his disfavor to plead for her people. To prepare herself, Esther fasted for three days, and artists usually showed her in a swoon to underscore her emotional state of mind. Artemisia based this impressive composition on a painting from the workshop of Veronese and initially included the Veronesian detail of a servant boy restraining a growling dog at the base of Ahasuerus's throne (although painted out, the figure and dog are visible as pentimenti). The most celebrated female artist of her day, Artemisia probably painted this picture in Naples, where she worked from 1630 to 1638 and again from 1641 until her death.