Liberal Arts Blog — The Pushkin Museum (Moscow): Rembrandt, Cezanne, Van Gogh

John Muresianu
4 min readApr 16, 2021

Liberal Arts Blog — Friday is the Joy of Art, Architecture, Design, Film, and All Things Visual Day

Today’s Topic: The Pushkin Museum (Moscow): Rembrandt (“Ahasuerus and Haman”), Cezanne (“Mardi Gras”), Van Gogh (“The Red Vineyard”)

Today, we continue the tour of the world’s great art galleries to which I have never been. We started with five posts about selected masterpieces from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Today, we travel to Moscow. Next week Stockholm. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

“AHASUERUS AND HAMAN” (Rembrandt) — How Esther saved the Jews from Annihilation

1. Haman, the guy in the shadows on the left, is the bad guy in story of the Jewish festival of Purim. Queen Esther, in the light, is the heroine. Haman has convinced King Ahasuerus to exterminate the Jews for their failure to show due respect to the monarch. Esther, the King’s Jewish wife, talks him out of it and the King orders Haman to be hung on the very gallows that Haman had constructed for the execution of Mordecai, Esther’s uncle.

2. Thereafter, King Ahasuerus, advised by Mordecai, orders the extermination of 75,000 enemies of the Jews.

3. Purim is the spring festival that commemorates the liberation of the Jews and the vanquishing of their enemies. Part of the celebration is the reading of the Book of Esther which is called the “Megillah.” The high point of the reading for children is the noise-making they are allowed to engage in whenever the name of “Haman” comes up. The idea is to drown it out his name. This happens 54 times.

NB: Hitler would ban the celebration of Purim and many Nazi massacres were timed to coincide with the Jewish festival.

“MARDI GRAS” (Cezanne) also called “Pierrot and Harlequin” and “Fastnacht”

1. “The traditional characters of the Italian commedia dell’arte act out in front of spectators the eternal conflict of two different temperaments. The melancholy reverie of Pierrot, whose fragile white figure seems to be made of plaster, contrasts with the confident, agile stride of Harlequin.” (first link below)

2. “The latter’s black and red costume symbolizes the play of flames on coal, stressing his demonic image.” (ditto)

3. “The models for the picture were the artist’s son Paul and Paul’s friend Louis Guillaume.”

NB: “In his youth, Cezanne, like Zola, loved the carnival, which led to all kinds of festivities in his home town of Aix-en-Provence. The youngsters would enthusiastically take part in all the masquerades, pageants and processions.” (second link below)

Pierrot and Harlequin, 1888 — by Paul Cezanne

“THE RED VINEYARD” (Van Gogh) — the only painting the artist sold in his lifetime!!!!

1. First exhibited in Brussels in 1890. Sold for 400 francs (about $2000 inflation-adjusted). The buyer was an artist and collector (Anna Boch) who was the sister of another painter and friend (Eugene Boch) whose portrait Van Gogh had painted two years before in Arles.

2. in 1909 the painting was purchased from a Paris gallery by Ivan Morozov, a Russian businessman and art collector. The painting was housed in the famous collection of Sergei Shchukin at Trubetskoy House in Moscow.

3. It was “nationalized” by the Bolsheviks after the revolution and the collections of Shchukin and Morozov were divided up between the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg).

NB: Painted from memory in Van Gogh’s Yellow House in 1888. while Gauguin was staying with him.


PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned recently or ever related to art, sculpture, design, architecture, film, or anything visual.

This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And to cement in your own memory something cool or important you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that is close to your heart.



John Muresianu

Passionate about education, thinking citizenship, art, and passing bits on of wisdom of a long lifetime.