Esther, Ahasuerus and Haman
29.21 cm x 43.18 cm (11 1/2 in. x 17 in.)
Pietro Ricchi (Lucchese)
(Lucca, Italy, 1605-1606 - 1675, Udine, Italy)
Medium and Support:
Red chalk and wash heightened with white
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
In this drawing, Pietro Ricchi manipulated the red chalk with a wet brush, saturating the pigment. He began by lightly sketching the scene with black chalk, over which he applied heavy red chalk. Contours appear darker and more defined, a result of Ricchi outlining figures with a brush dipped in water. He finalized the drawing with white opaque paint, possibly containing lead carbonate, which in some areas has grayed due to oxidation with sulfur in the air.
The scene is from the book of Esther. At a banquet hosted by Esther and her husband, King Ahasuerus, Haman gestures his arms in mock innocence. Earlier in the story Haman had proposed hanging Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, and the entire Jewish nation for their disrespect and pride. Here Esther reveals her own Jewish identity, sparing their lives. With Haman’s nervous smile and upraised hands, Ricchi conveys the emotional complexity of a man who senses his own doom.