- Museum number
Queen Esther fainting
Pen and brown ink and brown wash over black chalk
- Production date
- 1680-1700 (c)
Height: 176 millimetres
Width: 266 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Modified text from McDonald 2013
A number of artists working in Valencia during the second half of the seventeenth century are known more from written records, such as those of the Valencian biographer Marcos Antonio de Orellana, than from what has remained of their work. For example Orellana describes Mosén Domingo Saura as follows: 'he was very inventive and studious, a great draughtsman whose diligence issued from his genius. He always carried on him the instruments to further his studies, and he made the most of those he had, since he was often in possession of inkpot, pencil, brush, paper, and even a saucer for colours, so that he would not miss the chance to draw any object worth drawing that appeared within sight. For this reason, whenever he went out to have a good time or to enjoy the company of his friends, they, aware of his talent, would ask him to draw something, and he, who could not help himself, would get out his pencils and other instruments to draw, either what appeared before him, or any episode from the life of the saint to whom he had been praying that day. … And being the said Saura so industrious, an endless number of drawings by his hand existed, and still exist, in Valencia.' (M.A. de Orellana, 'Biografía pictórica valentina, o vida de los pintores, arquitectos, escultores y grabadores valencianos', ed. X. de Salas, Valencia 1930, pp.353-4)
There is no reason to doubt Saura’s dedication to drawing, but few sheets can be identified with certainty today.
Orellano describes Saura’s drawings of the Old Testament story of Queen Esther: 'King Ahasuerus [represented] in the act of proclaiming his decree, with Queen Esther fainting at the feet of the throne, falling in her maids' arms while the said king holds out his sceptre and his golden baton as a sign of mercy'. Two drawings of this story believed to be by Saura entered the British Museum but were later reattributed. Esther fainting corresponds closely with Orellana’s description. The other sheet shows the Queen of Sheba approaching Solomon (1846,0509.203). In view of their Spanish provenance, supported by Orellana’s description and their similarity to the few known wash drawings by Saura, they are likely to be by him.
The drawings were listed in the BM inventory on their purchase as by 'Laura'. This was later assumed to be a mistranscription of the Spanish artist Saura and they were duly placed under this name before Philip Pouncey suggested an attribution to Allegrini in 1975.
J.A. Gere and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, Artists working in Rome', London, 1983, no.17; D. Angulo Íñiguez & A.E. Pérez Sanchez, 'A Corpus of Spanish Drawings, Valencia: 1600-1700', London 1988, no.410, pl. CXXXIII (as Mosén Domingo Saura); E. Harris, review of 'Corpus', The Burlington Magazine, 133, 1991, p.123; M. P. McDonald, 'Renaissance to Goya: Prints and drawings from Spain', exh.cat., British Museum, London 2012, pp.175-76; M. P. McDonald, 'El trazo español en el British Museum: Dibujos del Renacimiento a Goya', exh. cat., Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid 2013, cat.no.47.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2012/13 Sept-Jan, London, British Museum, ‘Renaissance to Goya: Prints and Drawings from Spain’
2013 March-June, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, ‘El trazo español en el British Museum …’
2013, Aug-Nov, Sydney, AGNSW, 'Renaissance to Goya'
2013-4, Dec-Mar, Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum of Modern Art, 'Renaissance to Goya'
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number