Artemisia Gentileschi: Esther before Ahasuerus (1628-1635)

(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ney York, USA)

Artemisia Gentileschi is a famous female painter 17th century painter who was the first female member of the art academy in Florence. Gentileschi painted a lot of strong women from myth and the Bible. This painting is a good example of her work. Depicted is a scene from the Book of Esther. According to the story, Esther was a  Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus is usually identified with the Achaemenid king Xerxes I (519–465 BC). A vizier of Ahasuerus, Haman, planned to kill all the Jews of the Persian Empire. the plan was foiled by Mordecai and his cousin and adopted daughter Esther. Esther broke court etiquette and pleaded for the Jews of the Persian Empire. She reveals to the king that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, which includes her. Esther fainted in the king’s presence but Ahasuerus favored her request and had Haman hanged. This story is the basis of the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim. Gentileschi originally included a black boy before the king but later removed him but he is still partly visible. Painting from 1628-1635.