The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon by Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614)
256 x 325 cm
Oil on canvas
Lavinia Fontana was a Bolognese native famed for her portraiture, and recognised as one of the first women in Europe to have achieved a successful public career as an artist.
In this, one of her most ambitious portraits, Vincenzo I Gonzaga and his wife Eleonora de’ Medici are depicted in the guise of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. This Old Testament story was chosen because the Gonzaga family of Mantua claimed ancient connections with the Queen of Sheba.
This painting was apparently inspired by an actual event that occurred in 1600, when the Dukes of Mantua passed through Bologna on their way to attend the wedding of their relative Maria de’ Medici who was marrying Henry IV of France.