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The Wrath of Ahasuerus

Photo credit: The Henry Barber Trust, The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

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King Ahasuerus rises in fury as his wife Esther reveals the treachery of his chief minister Haman, who cringes to the left. According to the Bible, Haman plotted to massacre the Jews in the Persian empire. Queen Esther summoned the two men to a banquet where she revealed the plot and her own Jewish identity. The King’s violent reaction overthrows a vase and a peacock pie – symbol of Haman’s fallen pride. Jan Steen is better known for his exuberant scenes of peasant life, full of humour. Even in a biblical story, a love of melodramatic drama and colourful detail shines through.

Date

c.1671–1673

Medium

oil on canvas

Measurements

H 129 x W 167 cm

Accession number

39.22

Acquisition method

purchased, 1939

Work type

Painting

Inscription description

Signed: J. Steen [JS in monogram]


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Normally on display at

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands B15 2TS England

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