The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon (detail)
Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Sir Edward John Poynter
The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon 1881-90
(aka The Queen of Sheba before Solomon)
From the museum’s description:
Having heard of Solomon’s famed wealth and wisdom the Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem ‘to test him with hard questions’, but she was overwhelmed by his magnificence. Poynter’s reconstruction of Solomon’s palace is based on details from the Bible supplemented by the evidence of Assyrian remains unearthed in the 1840s. The Queen of Sheba is a mysterious and alluring figure followed by an exotic retinue bearing her gifts for Solomon, of gold, gems and spices.
From the AGNSW Handbook, 1999:
When contemplating this picture it is useful to bear in mind that the second half of the nineteenth century was a period remarkable for archaeological researches and discoveries, especially by English expeditions. The British Museum was a treasure house of antiquities increasingly valued by artists as a reference library. Egypt and the Middle East replaced Greece and Italy as the focus of curiosity. 'The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon' can be contextualised against a craze for orientalist narratives in literature, music and visual art. The wildly composite architectural system of Solomon's temple is reprised in the frame, which bridges the temporal and spatial distance between viewer and subject. The artist has been so obsessed with the accuracy of his details, however, that the figures seem somewhat doll-like. Trained in Paris under Gleyre, Poynter was at heart a Salonist for whom artistry resided in weight of detail rather than dramatic synthesis.