HUGUES MERLE | QUEEN ESTHER
1823 - 1881
signed Hugues Merle and dated 1875 (upper left)
oil on canvas laid down on Masonite
canvas: 25⅞ by 21½ in.; 65.7 by 54.6 cm
framed: 31⅛ by 26¾ in.; 79 by 68 cm
Not examined out of frame. 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 and a few small, widely scattered dots of retouching.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation because Sotheby's is not a professional conservator or restorer but rather the condition report is a statement of opinion genuinely held by Sotheby's. For that reason, Sotheby's condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot.
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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, New York, 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 anguish over her decision can be sensed in her eyes as she debates the decision to break court etiquette and risk her life to plead for the Jewish people before her husband, the Persian king.