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Ivory, Apes and Peacocks

Photo credit: National Trust for Scotland, Pitmedden Garden

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The painting depicts the legendary figure of the Queen of Sheba, a figure who has her roots in ancient Yemen. She is mentioned in the 'Old Testament' in relation to King Solomon whose court she visited. This incident is related in the 'First Book of Kings', chapter 10, 'And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord… she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold…' The painting takes its title from verse 22 of this book 'For the King had at sea a navy of Tharnish with the navy of Hiram: once in three years came the navy of Tharnish bringing gold, and silver, ivory, and apes, and peacocks'. Duncan most probably was aware of the various literary interpretations of the theme of the Queen of Sheba such as the poetry of John Masefield (1878–1967) and artistic precedents such as the monumental history painting by Sir Edward John Poynter 'The Queen of Sheba's Visit to King Solomon', (1882).

National Trust for Scotland, Pitmedden Garden





tempera on board


H 101.6 x W 152.4 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Diploma Work deposit, 1923

Work type


Inscription description

Duncan 1923


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National Trust for Scotland, Pitmedden Garden

Ellon, Aberdeenshire AB41 7PD Scotland

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