Sat 23 Feb 2013
The festive entry today in the blog dedicated to the festival of Purim deals with Queen Esther – one of the beloved characters of the story of Purim and history of Jews. Uncounted Jewish little girls chose her as the character that they mask in for the festival. This may be a rather new tradition however, bu the image of the beautiful and dedicated woman fascinated illustrators of the Bible many centuries back. I browsed the Net for information and reflections of the Biblical character of Queen Esther in art, and first of all in painting. Here are a few findings, I hope that you will find them beautiful and interesting.
Ancient illuminated manuscripts are among the first to provide representation of the Queen Esther image and exploits. Here is a splendid old Jewish manuscript, one of the oldest and finest in the British Museum collection, from The North French Hebrew Miscellany, 1272-98, representing King Ahashverosh holding out his scepter to Queen Esther.
Another beautiful example of illuminated art representing the Purim story is the Megillat Esther, a scroll with the biblical story of Queen Esther, read during the Purim festival, created by the Jews of Ascona (now in Italy) in 1784, which can be found nowadays in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
The Metropolitan Museum in New York contains in its collections a beautiful study by Claude Lorrain from the beginning of the 17th century representing Queen Esther approaching the palace of the King of Persia. The vast staging allows for an elegant and complex landscape in Baroque style.
Rembrandt’s Haman Begging Esther for Mercy painted in 1655 is one of the power pieces of the collection of the National Art Museum in Bucharest. It is dark in coloring (as many of the masterpieces of Rembrandt) and powerful in the composition which emphasizes the relations between the three characters of the Purim story.
Another version painted by Rembrandt of the Purim heroes can be found in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow. It is called Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther and is dated 1660.
This intense version of the portrait of the Queen is called Esther haram, is dated 1878 and belongs to a painter from the Victorian period named Edwin Long who painted many historical and Biblical stories giving them an Orientalist and erotic touch.
Contemporary mosaic artist Lilian Broca is well known for several series inspired by feminine Biblical characters among which the one dedicated to Queen Esther is probably the best known. Her technique adapts some of the Byzantine mosaic techniques and materials, and the results are spectacular.
Chag Purim Sameakh! A Happy Purim!