CELESTI, Andrea
(b. 1637, Venezia, d. 1712, Venezia)

Feast of Belshazzar

1705
Oil on canvas, 157 x 203 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

The scene illustrates chapter 5 of the Old Testament Book of Daniel. Belshazzar, King of Babylon, gave a great feast at which wine was drunk in the golden and silver vessels looted by his father Nebuchadnezzar, from the temple in Jerusalem, and 'gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone...which see not, nor hear, nor know' were praised while God himself was not glorified. And there 'came forth fingers of a man's hand and wrote...upon the plaster of the wall'. Only the Jewish seer Daniel was able to read the supernatural inscription MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN which foretold the defeat - in fact, the death - of Belshazzar that same night and the partition of his kingdom among the Medes and the Persians.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 11 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Belshazzar's aria, choir, and martial symphony