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ID number:  BIRBI-39.22
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Steen, Jan (1625/6-1679)
Title / Object name:  The Wrath of Ahasuerus
Object type:  Painting
Place made:  Leiden
Culture:  Dutch
Date made:  1671/3
Materials:  Oil on canvas
Measurements:  130.6 x 168.5cm; 162.5 x 197 x 15cm
Provenance:  Pickfatt sale, Rotterdam, 12 April 1736 (lot 44); Colonel Hankey, Beaulieu, Hants.; Sedelmeyer, Paris, 1899 (lot 54); Rodolphe Kann, Paris; F. Kleinberger, Paris, 1927; K. W. Bachstitz, The Hague; purchased from Dr K. W. Bachstitz in 1939 for £8,000.

King Ahasuerus rises in fury as his wife Esther reveals the treachery of his chief minister Haman, who cringes to the left. According to 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.

Inscriptions / Translations:  Signed I.I.:J. Steen [JS in monogram]

Notes:  Exhibited: 'Jan Steen', Museum de Lakenhal, Leiden, 1926, no. 48; 'Dutch Art', Royal Academy, London, UK, 1929, no. 208; 'Tentoonstelling Jan Oude Kunst', Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1929, no. 139; Bachstitz Gallery Exhibition, London, UK, 1928, no. 29; 'Dutch Masterpieces', Eugene Slatter Gallery, London, UK, 1945; 'Dutch Pictures 1450-1750', Royal Academy, London, UK, 1952, no. 552; Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh, UK, 1954; 'Dutch paintings', Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, UK, March 1956 - April 1956, no. 49; 'Jan Steen', The Hague, Netherlands, December 1958 - February 1959, no. 49; 'Great Artists Inspired by the Bible', Belazel National Art Museum, Jerusalem, 11 May 1965 - 12 July 1965; 'Jan Steen, Painter and Storyteller', National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA, 28 April 1996 - 18 August 1996, no. 44; 'Jan Steen, Painter and Storyteller', National Gallery of Art, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 21 September 1996 - 12 January 1997; 'Pride & Persecution: Jan Steen's Old Testament Scenes', Barber Institute, 27 October 2017 - 21 January 2018; 'Jan Steen's Histories', Mauritshuis, The Hague, 15 February - 13 May 2018

1 Related People

Steen, Jan

1 Related Publications

The religious and historical paintings of Jan Steen
Kirschenbaum, B. D.

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