Artemisia Gentileschi, Esther Before Ahasuerus

17th century
Oil on canvas
Metropolitan Museum of Art, gift of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, 69.281

The artist captures the moment in Esther 15:4-11 (Vulgate) when Esther faints and gains the king's sympathy. Her clothing and the two attendants are from Esther D:1-2. This episode will lead the king to agree to Esther's request for a banquet to be attended by Haman, whom she will then denounce and save her people. "Ahasuerus" is the name the text gives to the Persian king Xerxes.

The Vulgate Esther is based on a text that is partly Hebrew and partly Greek in origin. The originally Greek parts are not accepted as canonical by Jewish and Protestant scholars. The passage the Gentileschi is illustrating is now numbered as Esther D:1-8 in Catholic Bibles. Protestant versions have a passage at 5:1-2 that is similar but lacks the two attendants and the swoon.

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