Jan Lievens

This sheet belongs to a group of large-scale, highly finished drawings that Lievens created in the early years of his career. It focuses on the suspenseful banquet that Esther, an Old Testament heroine, prepared for her husband, the Persian king Ahasuerus, and his vizier, Haman. With her gaze fixed on Ahasuerus, Esther gestures emphatically toward Haman, who had been secretly plotting to annihilate the Jewish people. As his vicious plan is being uncovered, Haman crouches in his chair, his face submerged in the shadows. The drama of the event is enhanced by Lievens’s bold use of chiaroscuro effects and his decision to position the figures in the middle ground, with a curtain framing the composition at left, which effectively transforms the scene into a stage.

Jan Lievens
Dutch, 1607–1674
The Feast of Esther, ca. 1628
Brush and black and gray ink, gray and brown wash, heightened with white, over black chalk, with traces of red chalk
Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, INV. NO. C 1980-463
© Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
Photo: Herbert Boswank