- Museum number
King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; in the centre, Sheba and Solomon accompanied by a large retinue of people and soldiers on foot or horseback, one soldier on a camel, several leopards on a leash, before a classical building flanked by two domed arcades. c.1470-90
- Production date
- 1470-1490 (circa)
Height: 293 millimetres
Width: 434 millimetres
- Curator's comments
This print belongs to a group of engravings of miscellaneous subjects, catalogued by Hind as executed in the 'Broad Manner', now attributed to Francesco Rosselli. For this group see the entry for Hind B.III.9 (P&D 1875-6-12-18).
This is the second state of the print, with the inscription "TENPLVM SALOMONIS" added on the frieze of the portico; examples of the first state, without the lettering, are in Berlin and Hamburg.
It was engraved on the verso of the plate used for the second version of the 'Deluge' (Hind B.III.3 and Mark J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Barsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, p. 78, no. 062), as noted in an entry in the Rosselli's inventory: '1o diluvio di foglio reale chol tenpio di salamone" (a Deluge [in the size] of [a] royal folio with the temple of Solomon).
Rosselli's elegant print is the earliest surviving engraving representing the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon's court. Hind suggested various stylistic comparisons: the man with the horse seen from behind on the l and the two men with a pair of dogs on leash in the centre are repeated in the Rosselli's 'Adoration of the Magi' (P&D 1845-8-25-478; Hind B.III.2 and Mark J. Zucker, 'The Illustrated Barsch, Commentary', vol. 24, part 2, 1994, pp. 76, no. 061); moreover, the image echoes Ghiberti's treatment of the subject in the famous relief on the 'Gate of Paradise' of the Baptistry in Florence (circa 1426-52) and also shares a number of pictorial elements with a painted cassone panel by an anonymous Florentine painter of approximately the same date now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (the same subject is depicted in another Florentine cassone panel in the Jarves collection, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven).
For a discussion of the print see the entry by Donato Esposito in 'Queen of Sheba. Treasures from Ancient Yemen', BM, London, 2002, p. 45, no. 17.
This print was issued as a black and white facsimile by the British Museum in 'Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Reproduced by Photographic Process', [First Series] Part I (Italian Prints), Published by the Trustees in 1882, where it was number IV and described there as 'Anonymous. The Temple of Solomon, c.1450.'; (Shelfmark 245*.b.12).
Bowers catalogue entry
Attributed to Francesco Rosselli (1448 - after 1508)
Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, c.1470-90
Engraving, 294 x 432 mm
Purchased from William and George Smith, London
Rosselli’s print is the earliest surviving engraving of the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon’s court. Its authorship has only recently been assigned to Rosselli by comparison of technique and iconography with other securely attributed work. He is responsible too for the earliest printed planisphere Map of the World (1506), showing the recent discoveries of the New World. The print was for centuries unattributed.
The entire scene is one of supreme elegance redolent of contemporary Renaissance Florence. Sheba sports the fashions of courtly attire; her hair is carefully braided and her dress has elongated sleeves. The introduction of a camel and several leopards provides an undercurrent of exoticism, not unlike Bauer four centuries later. The image echoes Ghiberti’s treatment of the subject some twenty years before, which the engraver would certainly have known first hand from his native Florence. Both Rosselli and Ghiberti direct the viewer’s gaze beyond the two main protagonists to the lavish architecture of Solomon’s palace. Rosselli's figures are dwarfed by an expansive classical complex composed of a multi-storeyed block, flanked by two domed wings supported by an elegant colonnade. Despite the rigid composition, there is the minimum of formality as Solomon welcomes his royal visitor. Sheba’s entourage is small, her gifts modest and onlookers chat casually.
This engraving was made in the infancy of the technique at a time when single sheet prints (as here) were largely functional and may have been made to decorate, for example, the inside of a jewellery box. Solomon and the Queen of Sheba shares a number of pictorial elements with several painted cassone panels by anonymous Florentine painters of approximately the same date, for instance in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven (Jarves Collection) and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. These panels may well have taken their point of departure from this early print.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2002 Jun-Oct, London, BM, Queen of Sheba: Treasures from ancient Yemen, no. 17
2004-2005 17 Oct-13 Mar, California, Bowers Museum, 'Queen of Sheba: Legend and Reality'
2007 BM, Display of early Italian prints in the BM
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number