Artist: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, Rome 1593–1651/53 Naples)
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 82 x 107 3/4 in. (208.3 x 273.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, 1969
Accession Number: 69.281
The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Artemisia worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, recounts the story of the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before King Ahasuerus to plead for her people. She, thus, broke court etiquette and risked death. She fainted in the king’s presence, but her request found favor. The story is conceived not as a historical recreation but as a contemporary event. Initially Artemisia included the detail of a black boy restraining a dog—still partly visible beneath the marble pavement, to the left of Ahasuerus’s knee.