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Queen Esther Approaching the Palace of Ahasuerus

Claude Lorrain (Claude Gellée) (French, Chamagne 1604/5?–1682 Rome)

Pen and brown ink; brown wash over black chalk; heightened with white
11 13/16 x 17 1/2 in. (30 x 44.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Annenberg Foundation Gift, 1997
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This magnificent compositional study, which came to light in the late 1980s, stands out in Claude's graphic oeuvre for its high degree of finish and detail. The biblical subject is set in an invented landscape animated by a diffuse naturalistic light. It was presumably made as a presentation drawing for François Bosquet, bishop of Montpellier, who had commissioned from the artist a pendant to his "Sermon on the Mount" (Frick Collection, New York). The resulting painting, considered by Claude to be his most beautiful, was later largely destroyed by fire (a fragment survives at Holkham Hall, England).

    Claude here depicts the Old Testament story of Queen Esther, who went to the king's palace to implore his mercy for her condemned people. As uninvited appearances before the king were forbidden under penalty of death, Esther collapsed in fear as she neared his throne, a scene commonly depicted by Baroque artists. By choosing instead the moment of Esther's approach to the palace, which is not described in the biblical text, Claude has shifted the focus from the clemency of the king to Esther's act of bravery when its outcome was still unclear.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: In pen and brown ink, bottom right: CLAUDIO / in Roma / 1658
    In the center of the verso: CLAUDIO G[?], [crossed out and replaced by]: Claudie Gillee / in Roma 1658

    Inscription: In pen and brown ink, bottom center: LA REINA HESTER

  • Provenance

    Stephen Somerville ; Vendor: Katrin Bellinger Kunsthandel , Munich

  • Exhibition History

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," October 6, 1997–January 4, 1998.

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

  • References

    Marcel G. Röthlisberger "More Drawings by Claude Lorrain." in Master Drawings. vol. 28, no. 4, Winter 1990, fig. no. 4, pp. 409-25, ill.

    "A Selection of Museum Acquisitions." Apollo Magazine. vol. 144, no. 430, London, 1997, p. 14, ill.

    Jon Whiteley Claude Lorrain: Drawings from the Collections of the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum. London, 1998, cat. no. under no. 82, 83, p. 139.

    Claude Lorrain, Drawings from the Collections of the British Museum and the Ashmolean Museum. Ex. cat. London, 1998, cat. no. under no.83, p. 139.

    Carmen C. Bambach, Colta Ives, Carolyn Logan, Nadine Orenstein, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, a selection: 1997-1998." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 56, no. 2, New York, Autumn 1998, p. 29, ill.

    Richard Rand Claude Lorrain--The Painter as Draftsman: Drawings from the British Museum. Ex. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco, Oct.14, 2006-Jan.14, 2007 and at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Mass., Feb. 3-Apr. 29, 2007. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006, fig. no. 118, pp. 173-175, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History