Esther before Ahasuerus

Artemisia Gentileschi Italian

Not on view

The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Gentileschi worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, represents the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia, in order to stave off a massacre of the Jewish people, breaking with court protocol and thereby risking death. Rather than turn to historical recreation, contemporary theater informed how Gentileschi conceived this dramatic scene, in which Esther faints before the king grants her request. An African page restraining a dog was painted out by the artist, but is partly visible beneath the marble pavement to the left of the king’s knee.

Esther before Ahasuerus, Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, born Rome 1593–died Naples 1654 or later), Oil on canvas

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