PICTURE IMAGES a dramatic moment from the Book of Esther, a Jew who became the wife of the Persian king Artaxerxes. King Aman’s chief adviser, unaware of Esther’s origin, planned to hang her adoptive father Mordecai and exterminate all Jews in Persia.
Amman’s machinations have already been partially broken; now, obviously flattered by the fact that he is one of his members for a feast with a king and queen, he is about to be removed from his work and hanged on a tree, which he himself prepared for Mordecai.
Rembrandt gave the scene a dramatic symbolism: the king and Esther are flooded with light, while the villain Aman is immersed in shadow. Such theatricality is perhaps justified: there is convincing evidence that the picture depicts a scene from the play “Esther”, which was successfully performed in Amsterdam in those years.