Esther before Ahasuerus

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Italian, 1708 - 1787

Geography:
Made in Rome, Italy, Europe

Date:
1738-40

Medium:
Oil on canvas

Dimensions:
29 1/8 x 39 1/16 inches (74 x 99.2 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection

Object Location:

* Gallery 283, European Art 1500-1850, second floor

Accession Number:
1982-89-1

Credit Line:
Purchased with funds contributed by the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982

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Label:
The biblical Book of Esther tells the story of a beautiful Jewish woman who intervenes with her husband, Ahasuerus, king of the Medes and Persians, to save the Jewish people from destruction. Esther defies a royal order that made it a capital offense to enter the throne room unsummoned and confronts her husband. First stunned, and then overwhelmed by her beauty and heroism, the king forgives her by lowering his scepter.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Pompeo Batoni was the dean of painting in eighteenth-century Rome, the most serious link in that city, then still the artistic center of Europe, with the ancients, the masters of the High Renaissance, and the more classical side of the Baroque. Although his reputation today depends on his grand and stylish portraits, it was his ability as a narrative painter within the Roman classical tradition that drew young artists to Batoni's studio. Esther before Ahasuerus is a splendid example of Batoni's use of discretion and restraint in both color and expression to describe an event. According to the Old Testament, it was forbidden by penalty of death to enter unsummoned the presence of Ahasuerus, king of the Medes and Persians. But his wife Esther, seeking his aid in thwarting the plot to destroy her own people, the Jews, defies the royal order and enters the throne room dressed in her finest robes. First stunned, and then overwhelmed by her beauty and heroism, the king forgives her by lowering his scepter and later will join her in destroying her enemy Haman. Joseph J. Rishel, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 182.

Provenance

With Gilberto Zabert, Turin, by 1977, and still in 1979 [1]. With a dealer in Geneva, Switzerland; with Pepper Fine Arts, New York [2]; with French and Co., New York, 1981; gift of the Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in honor of their 100th anniversary, 1982. 1. Exhibited at the Zabert gallery, "Dipinti dal XV al XIX secolo per collezionisti e intenditori," November 22-December 22, 1977, no. 32, and "Dipinti dal XIV al XVIII secolo per collezionisti e intenditori," 1979, no. 32. 2. According to a letter from Stephen Pepper of December 16, 1982 (curatorial file), Pepper Fine Arts acquired the painting from a dealer in Geneva and subsequently sold it to French & Co.


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