Lot 13
  • 13

Attributed to Aert de Gelder

20,000 - 30,000 USD
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  • Aert de Gelder
  • The enraged Ahasuerus
  • oil on canvas


K. Lilienfeld, Leipzig, by 1914;
With Julius Böhler, Munich 1927;
With David Koetser Gallery, New York, 1946;
From whom acquired by the family of the present collector. 


Leipzig, Leipziger Kunstverein, Ausstellung alter Meister aus Leipziger Privatbesitz, 1914, no. 42;
New York, Koetser Gallery, Dutch Paintings, 1946, no. 9.


K. Freise, "Neue Bilder in holländischen Sammlungen", in Der Cicerone, vol. IV, 1912, pp. 659-662, reproduced, fig. 7 (here and below as by Aert de Gelder);
K. Lilienfeld, Arent de Gelder, sein Leben und seine Kunst, The Hague 1914, cat. no. 30, reproduced fig. 20;
K. Lilienfeld, "Die Austellung alter Meister aus Leipziger Privatbesitz", in Kunstchronik, vol. XXVI, p. 107;
E. Plietzsch, "Holländische Bilder des 17. Jahrhunderts aus Leipziger Privatbesitz", in Monatshefte für Kunstwissenschaft, vol. 8, 1915, p. 49;
D.R. van Fossen, The Paintings of Aert de Gelder, unpublished dissertation, Harvard University, Cambridge (Mass.) 1969, cat. no. 13;
J.-P. Foucart-Borville, "Un tableau reconstitué au Musée d'Amiens...", in La revue du Louvre. Chronique des amis du Louvre, vol. XX, 1970, p. 219, reproduced, fig. 6, note 59;
D. Lettieri, "Text, Narrative and Tradition: Scenes from Esther by Aert de Gelder," in The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, vol. 8, 1980, pp. 75 and 82;
W. Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, vol. 5, New York 1981, under cat. no. 1072xx;
W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler, Landau 1983, vol. II, under cat. no. 731 (where described as cut);
J. W. von Moltke, Arent de Gelder, Doornspijk 1994, pp. 37-38, 72, cat. no. 25, reproduced, plate 25. 


The canvas is relined. Overall the picture is in fresh condition, and appears not to have been restored or cleaned in decades. The varnish is somewhat dirty and the canvas is somewhat pressed from an older relining. UV light reveals a few areas of carefully applied retouches, namely in the silver goblet, along the bridge of the figures nose, in the red draped cloth, and along the left edge. Possible repaired punctures just below the silver goblet and the figures foot have been restored. As mentioned in the catalogue note, the canvas was likely cut down at an early stage, prior to the relining, though no structural signs of this are apparent. Subtle detailing in the costume and face are well preserved.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Between 1680 and 1687 De Gelder evidently became increasingly interested in the Book of Esther. Von Moltke (see Literature) lists no less than seventeen different paintings with subjects drawn from this one source. The subject of this painting is King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of Persia, who reigned in the 5th century B.C., and who married the Jewish beauty Esther after dismissing his first queen Vashti. When her uncle Mordecai learnt of a decree from Xerxes's chief minister Haman to massacre all the Jews in Persia, he informed his niece, who at great risk to her own life, successfully interceded with the King. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, and Esther's valiant deed was recorded in the Purim letters, sent to all Jews throughout the Empire to commemorate their deliverance. Xerxes is clearly shown here discomfited, though whether this is with his first wife or (more likely) with the treachery of Haman cannot be certain.

The subject of Esther enjoyed great popularity with seventeenth-century Dutch artists, especially those of the Rembrandt circle. It has been suggested that these artists, as well as contemporary writers, may have been motivated by the contemporary analogy of the recent victory of the Dutch over the Spanish with the salvation of the Jews. De Gelder's own personal fascination with the subject may have been, as Von Moltke and Lettieri suggest, a combination of his preference for dramatic and unusual Old Testament subjects and exotic settings and costumes, perhaps betraying a personal interest in powerful female figures such as Esther, Tamar or Bathsheba. The former plausibly suggests that the present painting was most probably painted in 1685, the same year as the Esther and Mordecai in the Szépmuvészeti Museum in Budapest (see von Moltke, under Literature, p. 77 no. 35, plate 35). Another closely related small full-length of Esther of very similar format which was sold London, Phillips, 6 December 1988, lot 80, almost certainly dates from the same year. Both this and the present painting may, as Sumowski suggests, have originally formed part of larger compositions, an opinion supported in this work by the sudden cropping of the composition at right. The distinctive gilt goblet in this canvas also recurs in earlier related works, notably the Esther and Ahasuerus in the Musée de Picardie in Amiens (ibid., pp. 74-5, cat. no. 30, repdoduced in color, plate XVI).