Somewhat disheveled, his eyes bleary from drink, King Ahasuerus leans heavily on his left forearm, spilling wine onto his lap from the goblet he holds. This painting shows a scene from the biblical Book of Esther, when, after seven days of feasting and drinking, King Ahasuerus drunkenly asks one of his eunuchs to summon the beautiful Queen Vashti. She refuses to appear, angering Ahasuerus and prompting him to dismiss her and choose Esther as his wife.
Aert de Gelder places the characters against a neutral background and minimizes the action so that the focus is on the interaction between the two figures. Light falls from the left, highlighting the King's flushed face, extravagant clothing, and large frame. The dimly lit figure of the eunuch, modestly dressed, small in stature, and desexed, contrasts with the king's excessive appetites.