Esther and Ahasuerus
98.4 cm x 88.5 cm (38 3/4 in. x 34 13/16 in.)
(Moneglia, Italy, 1527 - 1585, El Escorial, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Before the mid 16th century, Genoese patrons generally satisfied their artistic needs by importing works or artists themselves from elsewhere in Italy or even the North. The activity of Luca Cambiaso represents the foundation of a native and highly progressive school of painting. First trained locally by his father, Cambiaso then went to Rome, where he assimilated the current style based on Michelangelo’s painting. Returning to Genoa, he cultivated the geometry and ideality that underpin that style. This led to the development of what is perhaps the most abstract and intellectualized style of the entire Italian Renaissance. Its characteristics are an extreme simplification of form, opacity of expression, broadness of execution, and modality according to the subject and function of the painting.
Rendering the Jewish queen’s courageous intercession with the Persian king to save her people, this painting is an outstanding example of Cambiaso’s most conventionally beautiful mode. Expressing the powerful conjunction of physical allure and moral force, the subject was a favorite from around this time through the 18th century. Typical of Cambiaso’s art, the composition is spare, schematic, and still. True to this mode, and appropriate to the subject, the description is relatively generous, the touch, especially in the ornament, delicate, and the tenor gentle.