Inspired by the Biblical story of Esther, and the King Ahasveros, the painting will be a depiction of one of the highest drama moments in the story.
“Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther clothed herself regally, and she stood in the inner court of the king’s house, opposite the king’s house, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the royal palace, opposite the entrance of the house. And it came to pass when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she won favor in his eyes, and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. And the king said to her, “What concerns you, Queen Esther, and what is your petition? Even to half the kingdom, it will be given to you.”
(Book of Esther, Chapter 5)
The background to this moment is that Esther, a Jewish woman and the relative (possible fiancée) of Mordechi, an advisor to the King.of Persia. After ordering the death of his first wife, Vashti, King Ahasveros seeks a new wife, taking maidens from across the kingdom. Esther is eventually chosen for her beauty and modesty, whilst concealing her Jewish identity from the king. In this moment, she is arranging to plead with the king for the lives of her people. Haman, another courtier, plots against the Jewish people and Mordechi. Once the king extends his sceptre to the Queen her life is protected.
Lacking a Persian Palace to use for the setting I began to walk around London thinking about what other settings had that sense of awe and architectural intimidation. Churches sprung to mind. I completed some sketches of Kensington Church Walk and St. Mary Abbot’s church exterior, where the large looming door is lit from the lamp above, casting shadows on the steps.
After discussing my idea of the angel hiding behind a column, a friend suggested Temple Church. Famous for its cameo in “The Da Vinci Code”, Temple Church is an extraordinary place. From the high arches to the circular curve, it seems as much a fort as a church. Spread out are these wonderful gargoyle heads, each one unique.
For the purposes of the painting I have removed the tombs from the back view. In the first stages I thought the alter would be a good background, but the architecture had too much potential to distract from the models. The looming dark columns and circular walls at the rear of the Temple Church won out.
As the story is set at night most of the sketches have been completed in the late afternoon, allowing the darkness to change the lighting. The staff and stewards at Temple Church have all been extremely helpful and tolerant of my setting up an easel there. I am very grateful for their co-operation.
- Esther (Mariam)
- Ahasveros (Ovidiu)
- The Angel (Shena)