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 popular artist with the Italian nobility. She is best known for her portraits, but also painted historical and mythological subjects. 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 work was apparently inspired by an actual event in 1600, when the Dukes of Mantua passed through Bologna on their way to attend the wedding in Florence of their relative Maria de’ Medici and Henry IV of France.