Hans Holbein the Younger 1497/8 – 1543

Solomon Receives the Queen of Sheba

pen and brush on vellum (23 × 18 cm) — ca. 1535 Museum Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace, London

Hans Holbein the Younger biography

This work is linked to 2 Chronicles 9:7

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Tags: Solomon

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At first glance this miniature depicts the visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. The king is seated on his throne, wearing his crown and holding his sceptre. They are surrounded by courtiers and by the queen's company.

But in reality it is the English king Henry VIII who sits on the throne. The queen here represents the church that subjects itself to the king's authority. Henry had just (1534) separated the Church of England from the Roman-catholic Church, and now was the head of the Church himself. For him it was the only way to divorce from his wife, Catharine of Aragon.

In 1532 Holbein had settled in England, where he worked at the king's court. This tiny painting was probably commissioned by someone at the court, who gave it to the king as a way of showing support for the separation. It has been in the Royal Collection since 1688.

The texts in the painting are derived from 2 Chronicles 9:

VICISTI FAMAM / VIRTVTIBVS TVIS (verse 6: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard)

BEATI VIRI TVI ... ET BEATI SERVI HI TVI / QVI ASSISTVNT CORAM TE ... OMNITPE ET AVDIVNT / SAPIENTIAM ... TVAM (verse 7: Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom)

SIT DOMINVS DEVS TVVS BENEDICTVS, / CVI COMPLACIT IN TE, VT PONERET TE / SVPER THRONVM SVVM, VT ESSES REX / CONSTITVTVS DOMINO DEO TVO (verse 8: Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the LORD thy God)

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