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The Feast of Esther (work of art)

Artwork Info

circa 1625
Jan Lievens
51 1/2 x 64 1/2 inches (130.8 x 163.8 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number
Dutch European
European to 1910

Key Ideas

  • This painting depicts a scene from the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible (and the Old Testament). 
  • In the 17th century, Esther was considered both a Jewish heroine and an important symbol in the Netherlands. She was a young Jewish woman who risked her life to save the Jewish people from destruction. The Jewish holiday of Purim is a celebration of Esther’s courage. 
  • Art historians once believed that this painting was created by Rembrandt, but now it is attributed to Jan Lievens. Both Rembrandt and Lievens were Dutch Golden Age painters. 

Learn More

This oil painting features delicate brushstrokes, bold colors, and strong contrast. It depicts a scene from the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament. In this scene Queen Esther, who was Jewish, tells the king that his advisor is plotting to execute all Jews in Persia. By speaking up she helped to save her people from persecution

In the 17th century, Esther was both a Jewish heroine and a symbol of the Dutch struggle against persecution from Catholic Spain. It was during this time that the Dutch revolted against Spain. The Dutch were being attacked for having different religious beliefs. This painting, which was created during that time of struggle, honors the bravery and resilience of both Esther and the Netherlands. Each year the Jewish holiday of Purim celebrates Esther’s heroic role in saving the Jewish people. 

The Feast of Esther is attributed to Dutch painter Jan Lievens. He painted in the Netherlands around the same time as Rembrandt and was influenced by his style. This painting was created during a period when Lievens and Rembrandt may have shared an art studio. 

Additional Resources

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Resources for Students


  • An oil painting depicting three people seated at a table, and one person standing in the background. The seated figures are a queen and king, whose faces are illuminated, and a man sitting in shadow with his back to the viewer. The figure standing behind the king and queen is their servant.

    The Feast of Esther