The Jewish festival of Purim begins this evening at sundown and continues through Friday evening. Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from the threat of death, as recorded in the Book of Esther.
According to the biblical account, Haman, the king’s viceroy, convinced the Persian ruler Ahasuerus that the Jewish people were ruinous threat to his kingdom and was permitted to issue a decree for the destruction of the Jewish people. When Queen Esther received word of the edict, she—as a faithful Jew—calls the Jewish people to fasting and prayer. At great personal risk, Esther professed her heritage to the king and successfully petitioned for a reversal of the decree. In honor of this deliverance, Jews began observing two days of feasting and celebration annually. Today, Purim is a lively holiday, celebrated with readings from the Megillah (book of Esther), acts of charity, exchanging gifts, costumes, and feasts.
Teichert’s painting is one of three scenes she created of Queen Esther. Teichert portrays Esther looking resolutely ahead as she approaches her audience with the king, an inspiring and dignified figure who rose to her unique calling to save her people. Teichert painted this image, along with two other Jewish subjects, in 1939, as she became aware of rising oppressions towards the Jews in Europe. She likely intended Queen Esther as a message of hope, compassion, and affinity towards the Jewish people.
Artwork: Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), Queen Esther, 1939, oil on canvas, 65 x 48 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art
Guest post by MOA Head Curator Ashlee Whitaker