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  • Place of origin:

    Brussels (made)

  • Date:

    1510-1520 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tapestry woven in silk and wool

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Tapestries, Room 94

This tapestry depicts a scene from the Old Testament story of Esther and Ahasuerus. The subject was a favourite theme in tapestries, particularly in the15th and 16th century. Both Henry VIII and his Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey, owned Esther tapestries and several sets are listed in the numerous entries for tapestries in the inventory of Henry VIII's possessions.

Esther was the wife of the King of Persia. The King allowed his chief minister to order the massacre of all Jews in the Persian empire. Esther, who was Jewish, risked her own death by approaching the King unbidden, to intercede with him to save her people. In this scene Ahasuerus is shown seated on a throne under a canopy, extending his sceptre to Esther kneeling before him, to indicate his approval of her request.

Physical description

Tapestry woven in silk and wool (17 warp threads to inch), depicting a scene from the Old Testament story of Esther and Ahasuerus.

Place of Origin

Brussels (made)


1510-1520 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tapestry woven in silk and wool


Height: 304 cm, Width: 390 cm

Object history note

Bought from Caveletti of Madrid, for £9 9s 5d.

Descriptive line

Tapestry depicting Esther approaching Ahasuerus, Brussels, 1510-1520

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

George Wingfield Digby, Victoria and Albert Museum :The Tapestry Collection, Medieval and Renaissance, (1980) cat. no. 30

Labels and date

Esther wears a crown only in the background scenes, so that the main scene may depict Ahasuerus choosing Esther to be his queen rather than the more popular subject of Esther, regally dressed, risking death to avert the destruction of her people by approaching the King unbidden.

Narrow border, styles of plants, figures and draperies are all typical of the fine Brussels tapestries exported throughout Europe in the early 16th century. Henry VIII on his death owned four sets of tapestry of the Story of Esther.
FLEMISH (BRUSSELS); circa 1510-20
Museum number 338-1866 [before 2003]
Esther and Ahasuerus
About 1510-20

Esther's story is told in the Old Testament. She was the wife of Ahasuerus, King of Persia. Unaware that she was Jewish, the king allowed his chief minister to order the massacre of all Jews in his realm. Esther risked death to intercede with the king and save her people. The subject was a favourite one in 15th- and 16th-century tapestries.

Southern Netherlands
Tapestry-woven in wool and silk [2008]


Wool; Silk




Tapestry; Christianity; Judaism


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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