1823 - 1881
signed Hugues Merle and dated 1875 (upper left)
oil on canvas laid down on masonite
25⅞ by 21½ in.
65.7 by 54.6 cm
Oil on canvas laid down on masonite. Overall the work presents well and the figure and her costume maintain bright colors. Scattered craquelure throughout, with two horizontal stretcher bar marks faintly visible across the figure's neck. The upper background (around and above the figure's head) has been slightly abraded. Under UV: a 1 inch area of inpainting underneath the figure's proper left jaw. Ready to hang in its current state.
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Frank Martinek, Tucson, Arizona (acquired in Chicago circa 1940)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Hugues Merle has often been compared to his contemporary and possible rival William Bouguereau because of his meticulous and highly finished Academic style. Merle sought inspiration in mythology, literature and religion, and for the present lot he chose Esther, the heroine of the Old Testament, as his subject. This work appears to be related to a larger composition entitled Esther (1875), previously in the Percy A. Rockefeller collection, sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1938 but since untraced, in which she is flanked by King Ahasuerus and an attendant. Merle is recognized for his psychologically charged compositions, and Queen Esther is no exception. The difficulty of and anguish over her decision can be sensed in her eyes as she is likely about to break court etiquette and risk her life to plead for the Jewish people before her husband, the Persian king.