Beautiful 16th Century Antique Flemish Silk And Wool Jewish Purim Tapestry Showing Esther And Mordecai, Country Of Origin: Belgium, Circa Date: 16th Century – The iconic antique Flemish tapestries of the 16th century hold a special place in the world of fine art and art history. By the beginning of the 16th century, Flemish tapestries had reached a level of mastery that rivaled the famous French Aubusson tapestries. This is a beautiful example and has a few characteristics that make it a special piece for the Judaica collector, history lover, biblical scholar or private connoisseur.
One thing that makes this silk and wool biblical Flemish Jewish Purim tapestry special is the level of detail and exquisite use of color. The clothing worn by the characters would place it in the latter half of the 16th century in Spain. Many times, these iconic antique tapestries depicted Biblical stories, only the figures were in contemporary clothing. The story is the Biblical account of Esther and Mordecai that can be found in the Scroll Of Esther. You can see the word “Hester” on the bottom of the woman’s dress. The word “Aman” is tucked in on the sleeve of a man in the tent. This is an Arabic word that means honest, trustworthy, and faithful.
The story involves Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman living in the Persian diaspora. She becomes the favorite of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I), who makes her his queen. She was the daughter of a Benjamite named Abihail and also the cousin and adopted daughter of Mordecai. She keeps her Jewish identity a secret.
Meanwhile, her cousin Mordecai becomes involved in a power struggle with Grand Vizier “Haman the Agagite”. Haman is a descendant of an Amalekite king who was an enemy of Israel during the time of King Saul. Mordecai refuses to bow before Haman, causing Haman to resolve to not only put Mordecai to death but also “his” entire Jewish people.
Haman sets the date of the destruction of Mordecai’s people for Adar 13 in the Jewish calendar. This date is now marks the official day for the festival of Purim. Mordecai hears of the plot and decides to inform Esther. Mordecai appears at the gate of the Palace in sackcloth and weeping. He was not permitted to enter. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes in the wake of the approaching army of Haman.
When Esther heard of this, she sent one of her servants with appropriate clothing so that Mordecai could enter but Mordecai would not accept them. Instead, Mordecai met one of the King’s servants in the city square outside the Palace Gate. Mordecai told him about the plan and showed him proof. He asked Esther to go to King Xerxes to beg for mercy. This might seem like a strange way to get the attention of the King, but Xerxes made an edict that anyone who approaches the King without being summoned will be put to death.
This edict even affects the queen. Esther realizes that if she approaches the King without being summoned, she could be put to death, too. It also means that she will reveal herself as a Jewish person, placing her at risk from Haman’s army. She tells Mordecai and those in Susa to fast for three days with her, and she would do the same. Then, she would approach Xerxes, knowing it was against the law and might end up in her death. But she went forward and told Mordecai that if she perished, she perished.
On the third day, she approached the inner court of the palace and stood in the presence of the royal throne. Instead of having her put to death, Xerxes offered her the golden scepter, which was a sign she was accepted. The king greeted her warmly and asked what she requested. He promised her half the Kingdom if she so wished. She asked only to hold a banquet for Haman.
In the meantime, Haman sees Mordecai sitting by the palace gate and is enraged by his mere presence. Haman asks to have Mordecai impaled on a pole before the banquet. Later that night, King Xerxes could not sleep and asked for the book of Chronicles to be read to him. He discovered that Mordecai had once exposed a would-be assassins but had not been honored for his deeds.
While this is going on, Haman enters the King’s court, unannounced, to ask him if he can impale Mordecai. Haman is granted entrance and told by the King that he is granted the task of honoring Mordecai by parading him through the town in a royal robe and with a royal crest above his head. Reluctantly, Haman complied just as the King asked, proclaiming the good deeds of Mordecai.
Haman returns to his advisers in disgrace, now realizing that if he does anything to Mordecai or his people, then it will be his ruin. Next, it is time for the banquet. During the meal, Esther tells King Xerxes about the plot against her people. She asks for help, telling the King that she, too, is slated for death. The King is angered by this and when he finds this out he goes into a rage and spends some time in the palace garden.
When Xerxes returns from his cooling-off period, he finds Haman on the couch with Esther. One of the attendants told Xerxes about the pole intended for Mordecai. Xerxes ordered Haman impaled on the same pole. Later that day, Xerxes gave Esther all of Haman’s land and gave Mordecai his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, his former Grand Vizier. Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate.
The day came when the edict of Haman was to be carried out. All the Jews attacked those who had vowed to destroy them. The tables were turned, and now the Jewish people were in power. Xerxes established this day as a day of celebration, feasting and joy. It is why Esther is honored as a heroine of the Jewish people and the reason for Purim.
Now that you know the story of Purim that is behind the scene on this tapestry, it makes it even more special. The scene depicts the part of the story where Esther and Mordecai achieve victory. In this Jewish Purim tapestry you can see Haman being impaled on the pole, and Esther is making Mordecai administrator of Haman’s estate and Grand Vizier, as the office once held by Haman was now vacant.
A discussion of this magnificent 16th century antique silk and wool biblical Jewish Purim Flemish tapestry would not be complete without mentioning the iconography. Esther is a feminist symbol of great courage and importance in the face of danger, not only for herself but also for her people. During the 16th century, several references in paintings of the time seem to compare Catherine of Aragon to Esther and the Godliness of Queen Esther. There was even a play about it, which makes this Purim theme tapestry all the more interesting.
This is more than just a visually exquisite green tapestry for your home decor. It has a religious biblical theme that makes it an exquisite piece history because of the story it tells and the traditions it honors. It is exciting to be able to offer this magnificent and rare 16th century antique silk and wool biblical Flemish Jewish Purim tapestry to our clients.