The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon
Sir Edward John Poynter
20 Mar 1836 - 26 Jul 1919
When contemplating this picture it is useful to bear in mind that the second half of the nineteenth century was a period remarkable for archaeological researches and discoveries, especially by English expeditions. The British Museum was a treasure house of antiquities increasingly valued by artists as a reference library. Egypt and the Middle East replaced Greece and Italy as the focus of curiosity. 'The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon' can be contextualised against a craze for orientalist narratives in literature, music and visual art. The wildly composite architectural system of Solomon's temple is reprised in the frame, which bridges the temporal and spatial distance between viewer and subject. The artist has been so obsessed with the accuracy of his details, however, that the figures seem somewhat doll-like. Trained in Paris under Gleyre, Poynter was at heart a Salonist for whom artistry resided in weight of detail rather than dramatic synthesis.
AGNSW Handbook, 1999.
The Queen of Sheba before Soloman
oil on canvas
234.5 x 350.5 cm stretcher; 421.0 x 341.1 x 20.5 cm frame
Signature & date
Signed and dated l.r., brown oil "18 EJP [monogram] 90".
Shown in 6 exhibitions
The meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Edward J. Poynter, R.A., Thomas McLean Gallery, London, 1890–1890
Unknown, Walker Gallery 1900, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1900–1900
- Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney 20 Jun 1975–20 Jul 1975
- National Gallery of Victoria [St Kilda Road], Melbourne 12 Aug 1975–14 Sep 1975
- Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide 26 Sep 1975–26 Oct 1975
Orientalism - Delacroix to Klee, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 06 Dec 1997–22 Feb 1998
Love and death: art in the age of Queen Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 16 Mar 2002–12 May 2002
Unknown, Mansion House (Guildhall) one-picture exhibition by living artists in 1900, Mansion House, 1900?–1900?
Thomas McLean Gallery, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Thomas McLean Gallery 1892. Purchased by Thomas McLean from the artist 1890.
Referenced in 141 publications
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R B, Archaeological Diggings, ‘Seeing the Queen of Sheba in Australia’, Hornsby, Aug 2002, p 20, col illus p 20.
one of his models (from the Pall Mall Budget)’, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘About Mr Poynter’s great picture, Sydney, 06 Aug 1892, p 5.
Edmund Capon, Great philanthropists on trial : the art of the bequest, ‘The James Fairfax collection', Melbourne, 2006, pp 126–35: p 134.
Jackie de Diana, Look, ‘Realism to surrealism: the Society’s art appreciation lecture series for 2014', Sydney, Nov 2013, pp 28–29: p 28.
Paula Dredge and Alan Lloyd, Paintings conservation in Australia from the nineteenth century to the present: connecting the past to the future: contributions to the eleventh AICCM paintings group symposium, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2008, ‘The sub-committee and the restorer: conservation at the National Art Gallery of NSW 1899–1910’, Canberra, 2008, pp 25–37: pp 26, 29–30, illus pp 34, 35. Detail from a photograph of 1900.
Caroline Dunant, Melodrama: stage, picture, screen, ‘Olympian dreamscapes: the photographic canvas: the wide-screen paintings of Leighton, Poynter and Alma-Tadema’, London, 1994, p 87, illus p 86.
Donato Esposito, British Museum Magazine, 'Inspired by Antiquity: Sir Edward Poynter and the British Museum', London, Spring 2002, pp 22–25: pp 24–25, col illus p 25.
Michele Field, Sydney Morning Herald, ‘London toasts Sheba, but she’s a Sydney girl’, Sydney, 13 Aug 2005, p 5, illus p 5. Gallery shot.
Cedric Flower, Bulletin, ‘Art: Victorians in NSW’, Sydney, 19 May 1972, pp 38–39, illus p 39 (detail).
Renée Free, Art and Australia, 'European collection', Sydney, Jul 1972, pp 63, 67, col illus p 70. Art Gallery of New South Wales special number.
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Matthias Schulz, Der Spiegel, ‘Zauberin im Garten Eden’, Hamburg, 14 Apr 2001, pp 188–201: col illus pp 188–89 and on cover.
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The meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Edward J. Poynter, RA, London, 1890. Reprinted Sydney, 1892 and partially reprinted in the Art Gallery of New South Wales catalogue 1906.
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