depicting the Queen of Sheba before King Soloman woven in wool and silk, 628cm x 244cm
The Queen of Sheba was the monarch of the ancient kingdom of Sheba, believed to be in either modern day Ethiopia or Yemen. The Queen is referred to in Yemeni and Ethiopian history, the Bible and the Qur'an.
According to the Bible, the queen heard of the great wisdom of King Solomon of Israel and journeyed there with gifts of spices, gold, precious stones and beautiful wood and to test him with questions.
According to Yemeni and Ethiopian history the story is more brutal. King Solomon invited the Queen of Sheba to a banquet, serving spicy food to induce her thirst, and inviting her to stay in his palace overnight. The Queen asked him to swear that he would not take her by force. He accepted upon the condition that she, in turn, would not take anything from his house by force. The Queen assured that she would not, slightly offended by the implication that she, a rich and powerful monarch, would engage in stealing. However, as she woke up in the middle of the night, she was very thirsty. Just as she reached for a jar of water placed close to her bed, King Solomon appeared, warning her that she was breaking her oath, water being the most valuable of all material possessions. Thus, while quenching her thirst, she set the king free from his promise and they spent the night together.