Bartsch 40; Seidlitz 40; Hind 172; White-Boon 40;
The New Hollstein Dutch no. 185, third state (of IV)
Plate not in existence – with Nowell-Usticke (1967)
The Old Testament Book of Esther describes how a young Jewess interceded with a
Persian king to prevent the massacre of her people, about 475 B.C. Esther, an orphan was
fair and beautiful and had been brought up by her cousin, Mordecai. She married king
Ahasuerus of Persia. The king’s chief minister Haman, an enemy of the Jews and the
personal foe of Mordecai, decreed that all the Jews in the Persian empire should be
massacred. Mordecai asked Esther to intercede with the king. Esther, in the act of
pleading with the King, was regarded by the church as prefiguration of the Virgin Mary.
Afterwards, when the king wished to express his gratitude to a man who had done him a
great service, he asked his advisor Haman what should be done about this. Haman,
thinking the king was referring to himself, suggested he’d be dressed in the king’s robe
and led in triumph to the city. Haman is greatly humiliated by this event and was hanged
on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
Rembrandt has introduced the figures of Ahasuerus and Queen Esther watching from the
balcony at the right. They have often been considered portraits of Rembrandt and Saskia.
For eighty years from 1568 to 1648 the Netherlands fought for its independence from
Spanish rule and the mandated religion that was forced upon it. During this struggle, the
Dutch identified with the children of Israel.
Consequently, in 17th century Holland, the story of Esther, with its clear political
overtones, became a popular theme in art; Mordecai is one of the main personalities in
the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. He is described as being the son of Jair, of
the tribe of Benjamin. He was promoted to Vizier after Haman was killed. Mordecai and
the Jews represented the Dutch, and Haman was interpreted as the Spanish tyrant.
Rembrandt used his unmatched technique to probe the psychological truth of his
characters. His Triumph of Mordecai presents a modest procession with a subdued,
introspective hero viewed from the balcony on the right by King Ahasuerus and Esther
and a seemingly impromptu crowd of bystanders.
The knight Alfred von Franck, born in Vienna, a student of the Academy of Engineers in
Vienna, he joined the army in 1826, left the service in 1832 to devote himself to the arts.
Returning to the army in 1844, he became professor of drawing at the Military Academy
of Vienna; gave lessons to the emperor Franz-Joseph. He painted and drew mainly
landscapes, and also portraits; engraved and executed some lithographs. From 1856 he
lived in Graz, as a retired major, devoting himself entirely to his artistic preferences. He is
cited as one of the most important collectors of antiques of this period (discoveries in
Kettlach, old terracotta, etc.). He was also a great collector of drawings and prints.
Alfred Ritter von Franck collection (Lugt 947), Vienna, Austria (1808-1884);
unidentified KB collection (Lugt 4786);
From a private German collection;
From a private Dutch collection.
Very excellent print before the revisions in aquatint, trimmed to the plate. The collector’s
stamp slightly translucent lower left.