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The Queen of Sheba
The Queen of Sheba in art and legend
The Biblical story of the Queen of Sheba's visit to King Solomon heralded a long fascination which has continued until modern times. This short account, devoid of any physical description, direct reference to romantic encounter or a religious conversion, has undergone extensive Jewish, Islamic, Christian and Ethiopian elaborations in which the Queen is described as beautiful but hairy-legged (the Jewish tradition, Targum Sheni of Esther), a convert to Islam (the Qur'an), a clairvoyant who identifies the Cross of Christ (Jacopo de Voragine's Golden Legend) and Makeda, the Queen of Ethiopia, who gives birth to Solomon's son (Kebra Nagast).
The works of art in this section provide an introduction to the great range of her depictions and traditions: a drawing from Safavid Iran, an eighteenth-century drawing after a Renaissance master, a nineteenth-century watercolour influenced by contemporary archaeological finds in Iraq, a Scottish Symbolist work of the 1920s and a painted narrative that illustrates the importance of the Queen of Sheba to the national and religious identity of Ethiopia.