Esther before Ahasverus

Monogrammist DDC, Northern Netherlands or germany, dated 1526

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Esther before Ahasverus

Esther before Ahasverus (obv.); Esther and Mordechai at diner with Ahasverus (rev.)

Signed with monogram DDC, centre left, engraved in a moon-shaped shield, hanging on a pillar and dated 1526 in a rectangular shield, on the left.

The present medal recently surfaced after it had only been known trough prints. As such these two prints were regularly published; two of those imprints are in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Print Room, (inv. n° RP-P-1930-232 and 233), as well as in the collections of the Louvre, Paris, and the Albertina, Vienna. During the 19th century these prints were regarded as very rare and scholars assumed that older imprints had to be extant. If that is the case, or that maybe imprints were made on old paper, is hitherto unclear. However it may be, the prints are very rare and the medal is unique.

Monogrammist DDC, Esther kneeling before Ahasuerus, print from a silver plate, Low Countries, 1526, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Print Room, inv. n° RP-P-1930-232

The unknown silversmith/engraver DDC must have been influenced by the output of Lucas van Leyden (1594-1533) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). The maker DDC must originate from the Low Countries. This assumption was also suggested by Georg Kasper Nagler (Die Monogrammisten) and Johann David Passavant (Le peintre graveur); that is why the print is included in Hollstein’s Dutch and Flemish etchings engravings and woodcuts. All are convinced that the place of manufacture must lie in the Low Countries, maybe Germany, but certainly not in Italy.

Early engraved medals from the Netherlands datable to the early-16th century are very rare. The present, magnificent piece is a beautiful example of the art of metal engraving, that was mastered by artists during that time.

Count Leopoldo Cicognara (1767-1834) was a special man, who received his training as an artist. From a young age he was interest in art critics and archaeology. After a brief political carreer he decided to dedicate himself completely to the arts. He became the chairman of the Academia di Belle Arti di Venezia and interferred with the opening of the Galleria dell’Academia to the public. He became espcially famous for his library, with containing countless titles about art. This library was bought by Pope Leo XII for Vatican library in 1824.

Cicognara’s vast knowlegde made him write many treatises about about various subjects. He was a great collector and published abundantly about parts of his collections. The present medal, which is registered in books about the art of engraving, or in Italian, calcographia, is a beautiful example thereof. Cicognara realised he owned a very rare medal and that is why he had several prints made of it. The book is broader in scope and is about engraving in general, the art of printing and various methods of printing are discussed. The printing of silver medals with an engraving is sometimes knowns as niëllo. In fact is concerns a technique of a silversmith, whereby the engraved lines are filled with a black powder, that is consecutively heated and polished. By using this method the actuial drawing becomes more visible in the medal. ths aforementioned manner was not applied in the present work, however, in the 19th cenmtury is was considered as such.

Lucas van Leyden, Esther kneeling before Ahasverus, print, Low Countries, 1518, Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, Print Room, inv. n° RP-P-OB-1605

The representation of Esther and Ahasverus originates form the eponymous Bible book of Esther, in which the Jewish woman Esther becomes the wife of Ahasverus. The grand vizier of Ahasverus is Haman, who hates the Jew Mordechai, because the latter does not want to kneel in front of him. Hence he wants to issue a decree to exterminate all Jews. However, he does not know that the wife of the king is also Jewish and he also forgot that Mordechai thwarted a conspiracy against the king. Esther knows albout all of this and wants to warn the king. In the first image Esther is dressed in her most beautiful gown and she is kneeling to invite the king and Haman to dine with her. During the banquet the king and Haman receive and invitation for a second banquet, the following day. During the night the king reads the chronicles and realises that Mordechai was never rewarded for thwarting the attack. The next morning Haman arrives at the king and wants to enquire if the decree for annulment can be ratified, but before he can ask this, the king starts to talk about Mordechai. Haman keeps his plans a secret.

The second image depicts the banquet on the following evening, whereby Esther reveals her Jewish identity. Then she accuses Haman for conspiring the destruction of the Jewish people. The king hangs Haman on the gallows which was originally intended for Mordechai.

The Old-Testament story about this heroic act by Esther has been depicted countless times in the course of art history. The monogrammist DDC made the present medal clearly under the influence of Lucas van Leyden and Albrecht Dürer, to which the accompanying prints, representing the same subject, as well as another print with strongly comparable facial expressions, attest.

Collection Comte Leopold Cicognara (1767-1834);
His sale, Artaria Vienna 4 november 1839, lot n° 127, 128;
Collection M. de Hoven (according to Passavant, 1860);
Collection Baron Alphonse de Rothschild (1827-1905);
Collection Baron Édouard de Rothschild (1868-1949), Hôtel Saint-Florentin;
Confiscated by staff of the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) after May 1940, during the occupation of France; transported to Jeu de Paume (ERR n° R 2464);
Recuperated by the allied forces, Monuments men, and transported to the Central Collecting Point München (MCCP no.1371⁄70); returned to France on 9 January 1946 and returned to the Rothschild family;
Thence by descent

Associated Literature
F.W.H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings engravings and woodcuts, Amsterdam 1949-2010, vol. XIII, monogrammisten p. 31,;
J.D. Passavant, Le peintre graveur, contenant l'histoire de la graveur sur bois, sur métal et au burin jusque vers la fin du XVIe siècle, Leipzig 1860, volume I p.284, no 434, 435;
G.K. Nagler, Die Monogrammisten, vol. II, p. 409, no. 1041;
Fridrich von Bartsch, Die Kupferstichsammlung der K.K. Hofbibliothek in Wien, Vienna 1854, p. 17-18, n°s 71, 72;
Leopoldo Cicognara, Memori spettanti alla storia della calcographia, Prato 183;
F. Courboin, Catalogue sommaire des gravures.. Bibliotheque Nationale, Parijs 1900, n°s 1517, 1518;
A. Zanneti, Le premier siècle de Calcographie, Venice, 1837, p. XXII n°s 127, 128

Monogrammist DDC, Northern Netherlands or germany, dated 1526

diameter 6.5 cm.

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