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Ivanovich Fedor, The Queen of Sheba before King Solomon, a drawing after Lorenzo Ghiberti


The Queen of ShebaIvanovich Fedor, The Queen of Sheba before King Solomon, a drawing after Lorenzo Ghiberti

The Queen of Sheba was an important figure in both religious and secular European art. According to Jacopo de Voragine's Golden Legend (thirteenth century AD), the Queen of Sheba was the first to identify the True Cross. When she visited Solomon's court she is said to have refused to walk on a bridge because it was made of the wood which would later be used for the Cross of Christ. The stories in the legend are the subject of the gorgeous frescoes by Piero della Francesca (1419/21-1492) in the church of San Francesco in Arezzo. Christian writers interpreted her journey as a symbolic precursor to the visit of the Wise Men to the Christ child in Bethlehem; like her they bore gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The impact of the Biblical story on European figurative art between the sixteenth and the eighteenth centuries was considerable. After the invention of the printing press, artists reinterpreted Biblical episodes, drawing directly on the Bible and rejecting popular traditions of the Middle Ages. The favourite moment for artists was the presentation of gifts by the queen within the magnificent setting of Solomon's palace.

The Queen of Sheba before King Solomon is the subject of one of the ten panels of the doors known as the Gates of Paradise, the Renaissance masterpiece designed by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455) for the Baptistery of the Duomo in Florence in around 1426-52. The panels, based on episodes from the Old Testament, were cast in bronze and gilded to create a shimmering effect. This drawing is a design for one of a set of etchings after the Gates of Paradise etched and published by Ivanovich Fedor (1765–1832), a Russian artist based in Karlsruhe in Germany. Fedor has imitated Ghiberti's contrasts of shallow and high relief, applying brown washes to indicate the deep shadows around the principal figures while drawing the architecture in line only.

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