The subject of this painting is taken from the Old Testament (Book of Esther). Esther, wife of Ahasuerus, King of Babylon, learned of a plot to slaughter the entire Jewish population in the kingdom. The plan was instigated by Haman; a high-ranking courtier and adviser to the king. Esther bravely petitioned her husband to spare the Jews, at the same time revealing her own, hitherto secret, Jewish identity. Arent de Gelder’s painting shows the moment in which Esther unmasks Haman as the true enemy and Ahasuerus dramatically draws his dagger, foreshadowing the later execution of Haman.