PICTURES OF THE BIBLE  © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; Lucas de HEERE; 1559, St Bavo cathedral, Ghent, Belgium




A king and a queen : Solomon and the Queen of Sheba





The Queen of Sheba comes to visit King Solomon whose wisdom she has heard to be praised.

The king remains seated on a throne decorated with lions, he sometimes holds out his sceptre towards her.

The queen advances to him accompanied by her maid-servants, she offers him some presents and spices since she reigns over a region of Southern Arabia.




They are also found sitting or standing and speaking side by side. According to an apocryphal gospel, the queen has received the revelation of the end of the Jewish kingdom and of the coming and crucifixion of Jesus; she advises Solomon about it.


The queen’s retinue, like that of the magi, evokes the splendours of the Orient.


It should not be confused with



Esther before AhasuerusGiovanni Andrea SIRANI;
1630s;Oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest




Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Esther and King Ahasuerus; Jacoppo TINTORETTO; c; 1560; oil on canvas; Museo del Prado, Madrid


Esther and the Queen of Sheba have nothing in common but both of them are received with solemnity by a king. These two scenes then have a similar structure, the same sumptuous oriental scenery but it is often easy to distinguish between them by observing the two women: The Queen of Sheba often assumes a very proud attitude whereas Esther, on the contrary, knows that she risks her life when coming to see the king, she lacks confidence.

See Esther



In both these works, Tintoretto has amused himself to spread confusion.





Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; Lucas de HEERE; 1559, St Bavo cathedral, Ghent, Belgium



A king and a queen : Solomon and the Queen of Sheba


The First Book of Kings, chapter 10

And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. (1 Kings 10:1)

The queen asks him a certain number of questions which he answers with wisdom.

And she said to the king, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of your acts and of your wisdom…Blessed be the LORD thy God, who delighted in you, to set you on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore he made you king, to do judgment and justice.

And she gave the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and large quantities of spices, and precious stones: there came no more such abundance of spices as those which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon… And king Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all her desire, whatever she asked, besides what Solomon gave her of his royal bounty. So she turned and went to her own country, she and her servants. (1 Kings 10:6-13)



The episode of the Queen of Sheba took place in the 10th century BC. Solomon’s reign was a period of peace and the king established relations with his neighbours, including North Yemen from where the queen’s rich caravan came.




A king and a queen : Solomon and the Queen of Sheba



Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; Lucas de HEERE; 1559, St Bavo cathedral, Ghent, Belgium


The meeting between the queen of Sheba and King Solomon takes place on an equal footing  

The Queen of Sheba before Solomon; illustrator of the “Bible historiale”; 1372 miniature; Manuscript MMW 10 B 23; Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.




The Queen of Sheba meeting Solomon; Piero della Francesca; fresco; part of “the Legend of the true Cross”; main chapel of St Francis, Arezzo

Web Gallery of Art


or , on the contrary, King Solomon manifests his superiority by receiving the queen as a dependent sovereign who brings him some presents as a sign of submission.


The Queen of Sheba before Solomon; Nicolas KNUPFER; 1640; oil on canvas; the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum



The Queen of Sheba and Solomon; Julius Schnorr von CAROLSFELD; 1851-60; engraving from “Bibel in Bildern”.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary






Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; Lucas de HEERE; 1559, St Bavo cathedral, Ghent, Belgium



A king and a queen : Solomon and the Queen of Sheba


The Queen of Sheba

This meeting between two different worlds has given rise to many popular legends with, as expected, a love story between Solomon and the queen.

This woman is called Balkis by the Arabs and Mekedo by the Ethiopians who worship her. Memelik, the first king of the country, is said to be the son of Solomon and Makedo. This old Christian kingdom of Black Africa has always fascinated the Occident but this legend is based on real relations between this kingdom and the Jews. The old tongue of the country, gueze, is a Semitic language and, at the end of the 20th century, a Jewish minority, the Falashas, were discovered.



The legend of the true cross

Many legends have developed about the Queen of Sheba, among them the legend of the True Cross. When visiting King Solomon, the queen kneels down before a wooden beam. It is revealed to her that it has been cut from the tree that grew on Adam’s tomb and that it will serve for Christ’s cross. This legend is drawn from Nicodemus’ pseudo-gospel.

The Legend of the True Cross;
Piero della FRANCESCA; Fresco; main chapel of St Francis, Arezzo, Italy

Web Gallery of Art




BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008