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Paintings of Purim and the Book of Esther

February 14th, 2013 by

Esther before Ahasuerus, Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, Roman, 1593–1651/53) Oil on canvas

Esther before Ahasuerus, Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, Roman, 1593–1651/53) Oil on canvas

I decided to collect some public domain paintings that are related to Purim and the Book of Esther (also known as Megillat Esther). Maybe some day I will use these for inspiration for a painting or for a Purim design. I did take a few designs of my own and using Photoshop’s patterns created a sort of wallpaper to put on oatmeal containers to give out with mishloach manot inside (gifts of food on Purim).

Esther and Mordecai,  Gelder, Aert de (1645 - 1727)

Esther and Mordecai, Gelder, Aert de (Dutch, 1645 – 1727)

Getting back to the paintings, enjoy the collection. You will note that many of the paintings are Dutch; because of the Spanish Inquisition, there were quite a few Jews in Holland in the 16th and 17th centuries. Perhaps that inspired Dutch artists to paint stories from the Bible, of which the Book of Esther is one (it is considered one of the five megillot).

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, Rembrandt, 1660, Dutch

The note for this painting of Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther on Wikipedia: “The painting is rather dark, because of the varnish that was once used.”

The Feast of Esther, Lievens

The Feast of Esther, Jan Lievens c. 1625, Dutch

The painter Jan Lievens is just beginning to enjoy a bit of the fame his contemporary Rembrandt has had for centuries.

The Triumph of Mordecai

The Triumph of Mordecai, Botticelli, Italian, c. 1475-1480, tempera on poplar

Regarding more modern depictions of Esther, I was going to put one up by Chagall, but his works are not yet in the public domain. So see this lithograph of Esther by Chagall.

And now to expand our horizons to Asia, here are some Persian paintings that might inspire a Persian style for a Purim painting or decorative work:

Persian School, Mir Sayyid Ali

Persian School, Mir Sayyid Ali, 16th century

I love all the color in these Persian paintings – very lively.

 Khamsa of Nisami

Khamsa of Nisami, illuminated manuscript, 16th century illustration

Do you have any favorite Esther or Purim paintings? Do any of the paintings of Purim and the Book of Esther I have posted inspire you?

8 Responses to Paintings of Purim and the Book of Esther

  1. Lorri M. says:

    What beautiful paintings. Thank you for posting them. I am an avid admirer of Botticcelli and Rembrandt. I also like to look at illuminated manuscripts. I often go to the Getty Center to see them.

    Shabbat Shalom!

  2. Daniel Saunders says:

    Shavua tov!

    I would think that Tanakh (or as they would have said, Old Testament) paintings are more likely due to the Protestant emphasis on lay Bible reading and placing of more emphasis on the OT than was done in the Catholic Middle Ages.

    • Leora says:

      You are correct – I do believe that is the main reason for the Old Testament paintings. However, I also learned that Rembrandt liked to pick Jews for his models. There may have been some influence on the Protestant painters.

  3. Beautiful paintings Leora..interesting post…Michelle

  4. Laura says:

    Did you see the article in the Jewish Press about the Tintoretto of Esther swooning?

  5. IlanaEpstein says:

    Hi Eama I figured out how to comment on this thing. -Ilana

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