Musee Conde, Chantilly/Art Resource, NY

A beauty pageant files past the throne of the Persian king Ahasuerus, who singles out Esther as his favorite as she bows before him, in this painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Fra Filippino Lippi (1457–1504). Esther’s charm and good looks bring her into the king’s graces. But she rises above her role as mere beauty queen and, like Samson, risks all to save her people.