Esther before Ahasuerus
ca. 1710 – oil on canvas, cm 168 x 290
This painting belonged to the collection of Venetian noblewoman Marina Nani Donà and was donated to the Pia Casa delle Penitenti with other ninety-seven paintings. Its large dimensions qualify it as a da sala painting, and it is likely that before being included in the Donà collection it was part of the pictorial apparatus of Villa Barbaro in Maser, a residence designed by Andrea Palladio with Paolo Veronese’s frescoes in the interiors.
Nicolò Bambini was a renowned exponent of Chiarismo, an artistic trend that over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries grew increasingly popular on the Venetian art scene. With extraordinary formal elegance and compositional balance, the painter illustrates the episode of Esther, the young Jewish slave asking King Ahasuerus – her husband – to save her people from the deathly conspiracy of the powerful Prince Haman.
Bambini created an imposing background of classical architecture – probably reminiscent of Paolo Veronese’s illustrious models – infusing the scene with a markedly theatrical spirit without compromising the elegance and pureness of the formal rendition.