Artemisia Gentileschi's Queen Esther Before Ahasuerus

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One of the main themes likely to be put across by the first artwork, Gentileschi's Queen Esther before Ahasuerus is the theme of leadership. By the look of the paintings, the man on a seat in front of the woman (Esther) is dressed in a king's attire and seated on an obviously royal chair. He is indeed, a king. It's quite clear that the pictures condense a story that once surrounded the monarchy. The story is likely to contain other themes such as suffering as the woman is aided to remain firm by some assistants on her sides. The same is confirmed by the king's facial expressions and posture which suggest some degree of readiness to give her a helping hand. A theme of sacrifice is portrayed by the work when the painting is interpreted in relation to the biblical story in which Esther takes responsibility for presenting her people's needs to the king. She uses an approach that risks her life for the good of others (Unglaub 121).

Guarino's, Samson Captured by Philistines is likely to talk about the theme of conflict. It is quite obvious that he (Samson) was not in good terms with Philistines. It seems to be a conflict at the level of an individual against a group. A person under captivity does not enjoy most of the basic rights and must have suffered under those who put him under the situation. This clearly shows the theme of suffering. The painting shows many people surrounding a man, and they seem to concentrate most of their attention on him. They are definitely working as a team in their bid to accomplish a mission (Hirschfeld 49).

Subject Matter and Narrative

A theme of betrayal is portrayed by the artwork. Next to Samson sits a woman who seems to be contented with what goes on. Despite the most parts of the scene being dark, the woman sits on a more luminous point which might suggest that she performs a very crucial role in the piece of art. She's Delilah, Samson's Philistine lover who betrays him to her people by revealing his weakness to them.

A painting artwork by Artemisia Gentileschi shows a woman who looks relatively weak, as evidenced by two assistants holding her from the sides. It is in a king's palace, as he (king) is seen seated on his royal seat in front of them. A comparison on the level of comfort between the king on the right hand of the painting with the women on the left explain something about the states at which the two parties are in. it is very clear that the woman is in some level of suffering, while the king is contented with what affects his life. She's possibly mourning over a certain matter which may not be explained accurately just by the look on the same (Gentileschi).

A painting artwork by Guercino, Samson Captured by Philistines, shows a man surrounded by many people (men and one woman). Some holding his hands, maybe in a bid to contain him, as evidenced by the way he appears strong (the positioning of legs which might be as a result of his bid to find support) (Guercino). Some of them are in war garments and one holding a pair of scissors, probably to shear the captive's (Samson's) hair. Most of the men are in a relatively dark point. The woman sits on a more luminous part and seems to be contented with whatever goes on here. The amount of light and her position reveal that she performs a crucial role in the story summarized by this artwork. This piece is a contradiction of Gentileschi's work in which the subject matter appeared weak and needed support. Events taking place here are likely to be a contradiction to those in Artemisias. An atmosphere of aggression and difficulty is likely to be experienced in Guercino's, and the exact opposite happens in Artemisias.

The two pieces of work reveal the human nature of dealing with matters affecting them by use of an equivalent force to that exerted by situations at hand. In Artemisia's artwork, the state in which the woman was in needed warm support from those around her. They did not have to use any act of force against it, as this would not bring expected results for the matter. In Guarcino's work, the person (under captivity) uses so much force that necessitates the use of at least an equivalent amount of opposition in order to calm the situation. It seems all those around him are teaming up to provide the right amount of energy to achieve the objective. This, when explained/related to real life experience might be the nature of humanity that favors collective responsibility when dealing with matters affecting the community; a classic example of the way people team up in order to deal with a situation in the best way possible for their betterment.

Artemisia's work, when explained in relation to the biblical story, is about Esther, King Ahasuerus' wife. She's on a mission to meet the king (Ahasuerus). She aims at presenting her people's needs to him and finds it best to violate the traditional way of accessing the palace. This was a risky act as such an offense was dealt on in relation to the laws governing access to the palace. It could claim one's dear life (Gentileschi). It's possible that following the right procedures was likely to render her plans futile, and the result would be an unanticipated bloodshed. She was lucky that the end result was positive for her. King Ahasuerus addressed the needs of her (Esther's) satisfaction (Gentileschi).

Guercino's is a biblical story about Samson whose birth and life were surrounded by God's special powers (hidden in his long hair). It happened that he wanted to marry a woman from Philistine, but his intended bride was later married off to another man. This makes him bitter and uses foxes to destroy philistines' wheat through fire. He uses a jawbone to kill a hundred Philistines. This was enough to breed animosity between him and the community. He later falls in love with yet another philistine, Delilah. The wife has promised good rewards her community in exchange for an explanation to her husband's supernatural powers. She tries her best to get the secret out of Samson. She succeeds in this and plans with her tribesmen who shave his hair and are able to take him into captivity. This story comes from the Old Testament in the Bible, Judges 13-16 (honorsartatthemet2016.ace)


The above artworks have used some similar styles such as making special artistic work on main characters. Artemisia's work, which involves Esther as the main character, has put her (Esther) at the center of those appearing on the painting. This directs viewers to emphasize more on her in a bid to achieve the best representation of the condensed story. Guercino uses a similar style in which he places Samson and his 'lover', Delilah, at a brighter place. Other characters like the ones on war garments are in a darker place, a style which directs every first viewer to look at the main characters before relating them to the surrounding.

Contradicting themes are represented between the two. Artemisia's involves a woman (Esther) who is ready to die for the good of her people. She risks death by violating rules governing access to the king's palace. Guercino's involves a woman (Delilah) who is ready to lose her love for personal gains. She reveals Samson's important secret to his enemies, an act that results in his capture.

Works Cited

Gentileschi. "Esther Before Ahasuerus." 1969.

Guercino. "Samson Captured by the Philistines." 1619.

Hirschfeld, Neal. "Teaching cops to see." Smithsonian 40.7 (2009): 49-54.

honorsartatthemet2016.ace. "Samson Captured by the Philistines." 2016.

Unglaub, Jonathan. "Poussin's Esther before Ahasuerus: Beauty, majesty, bondage." The Art Bulletin 85.1 (2003): 114-136.

August 01, 2023


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