Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669

Esther with the Decree of Destruction

etching (22 × 17 cm) — 1637 Museum Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn biography

This work is linked to Esther 4:8

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Tags: Esther

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The Persian king Ahasuerus has signed a decree that gives his minister Haman the authority to extinguish anyone who disobeys the law of the king. Haman intends to use the decree to kill all Jews in the land. He has not told the king what his true intentions are.

Esther, a Jewish woman, is Ahasuerus' wife. Her cousin Mordecai manages to give her a copy of the decree. He begs her to use her influence to stop Haman. Esther first refuses. She points out that it is forbidden to anyone to approach the king without being asked to do so. The penalty for abusing that rule is death.

After a while Mordecai succeeds in convincing her to rescue her people. "and if I perish, I perish", she says.

Rembrandt here shows her holding the decree, thinking about what to do, waiting for her visit to Ahasuerus.

Rembrandt's wife Saskia was the model for this etching. It is also known as The Great Jewish Bride; another etching, of Saskia as St Catherine is The Small Jewish Bride. These titles stem from the 18th century, when the actual subjects had not yet been identified and were thought to be Jewish brides awaiting their wedding.

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