Esther, St Andrew's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge 26 Sept 2021

by Graham Kings

Date added: 05/10/2021



This morning we are pondering the whole book of Esther in the Old Testament, with the help of Silvia Dimitrova’s painting, ‘Esther’.

Alison and I commissioned Silvia to paint a series of seven paintings of Women in the Bible over 17 years, 2003-2020. She is a Bulgarian icon writer based in Bath, and at Downside School, where her husband is a teacher, and has become a close friend. This iconic painting is of egg tempera on wood and was unveiled in January 2020. 

I have written a poem expounding each of the paintings and Tristan Latchford, a Cambridge composer, has written an anthem on each of the poems and paintings.

Currently, all seven of our paintings are at Chester Cathedral for Black History Month, in an exhibition entitled, ‘Global Images of Christ: Challenging Perceptions’.

Esther is the middle name of our youngest daughter, Katie, and her face is reflected in the painting. With her two sisters, she sang in St Andrew’s Youth Choir when we worshipped here 1996-2000.

The book of Esther is set in Susa, the capital of Persia. In June 2020, Ali and I were enthralled by the BBC Four series, Art of Persia. This three-part study of the history and culture of Iran was presented by Samira Ahmed, the BBC journalist of Indian heritage. It is still available on iPlayer and worth watching.

Let’s turn now to the painting and poem, which are printed on your service leaflet. What do you see?



Questions Raised by the Painting

Who is this woman, 

Framed by arches,

Beautiful, bountiful,

Centred, subtle, shrewd,

Carrying scented lilies?


Who is this man, 

Pictured with pillars,

Royal, imperial,

Majestic, magnetic,

Extending his sceptre?


Who is this man,

Holding a scroll, eyes alert,

Beckoning, suggesting,

Suppliant, petitioning?


Who is this man,

Head down, eyes closed,

Gallowed, glowering,

Schemer, scowling?


Who are these girls,

Gazing at us,

And the woman,

With posy and scroll?


Exposition of the Story

In August 2019, while we were on holiday, Silvia and her family stayed at our house in Bermondsey, London. They visited the British Museum twice and she spent five hours in the Persian section to ensure that the architecture and other details of her painting were accurate.

Centre right is Esther, Queen of Persia. She is Jewish, but the King does not know that. He got rid of his previous Queen, Vashti, becau