Queen Esther in an Initial L

Circa 1270
Illuminated Capital
The Getty Museum, Los Angeles
MS. Ludwig I 8, v3 (83.MA.57.3), fol. 248v

The woman in this illumination is Esther, the Jewish queen of King Ahasuerus. The dragons are not mere decorations. In the story Esther's uncle Mordecai has a dream of two dragons fighting. One of them is supported by many allies, but the other cries to God for help and prevails in the end. When Mordecai awakes he concludes that the dragons represent himself and Haman, a courtier who hates him. As it happens, Haman persuades the king to order that Mordecai be hanged and all the Jews exterminated. But Esther hears of this, goes to the Ahasuerus, recounts Mordecai's many faithful services, and persuades the king to rescind his order. Haman is then hanged on the same scaffold he had built for Mordecai.

In the image Esther treads the dragon representing Haman underfoot while the dragon representing Mordecai breathes fire at him. With the outsize spear in her right hand she also crushes the dragon's head.

According to some Christian commentators Esther is a type of the Church (Glossa Ordinaria II, 1610, 1621). The crushing of the dragon's head also suggests an identification with "the woman" in Genesis 3:15 (Vulgate) who God says will crush the serpent's head.

View this image in full resolution.
Read more about images of Queen Esther.

Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.