Overdoor or firescreen, La Toilette d'Esther, after Jean-Franco de Troy, 1825; Block-printed on handmade paper; France; Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt, 1931-45-1

Will the real Esther please stand up?

This firescreen or overdoor is based on the 1738 painting La Toilette d'Esther by Jean-François de Troy (French, 1679-1752). This wallpaper is an almost exact replication of the original oil painting by de Troy. The manufacturer has used about 40 printed colors to capture the lushness of the original painting with all its luxurious textiles. Each printed color required about 5 different shades to create this sense of depth. As this is a wood block print, each different color required a separate hand-carved woodblock. This is an exquisite printing, as witnessed by the on-register printing of a great number of colors, the masterful blending of all these colors which create this wonderful sense of depth, and the printer’s ability to capture the ambience and all-around grandeur of the scene.

Firescreen’s were used to cover the empty fireplace in the summer months creating a nice decorative cover to an otherwise unsightly hole in the wall. It was also popular at this time to use decorative panels over doors, filling that void between the top of the door frame and the ceiling in high-ceilinged rooms. These panels appeared in infinite variety and were designed like little scenic wallpapers in that they frequently contained landscape views and had no repeat. Still life vignettes were another popular genre with many containing lavish spreads of fruits, wines and cheese.

This firescreen, and the painting by Jean-François de Troy, depicts a scene from the scriptural Book of Esther, when Esther prepared to meet King Ahasuerus, ruler of Persia, who subsequently took her as his wife. The painting is in the Musée du Louvre and has been described as one of the most famous in the Louvre.

Museum Number: 
1931-45-1