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This painting depicts an episode from the Old Testament: the Queen of Sheba embarking on her journey to see King Solomon in Jerusalem. Crowned and dressed in red, the Queen descends the steps. The meeting was often painted, but it was unusual to depict the Queen’s embarkation. The soft warm light of sunrise typical of Claude’s idealised seascapes captures the gentle ripples of the water, undersides of the clouds and foliage, and silhouettes of the boats. The classical buildings on either side create a symmetrical and balanced scene, and reflect the many years Claude spent working in Rome. The name of the man who commissioned the painting, the Duc de Bouillon (1605–1652), is inscribed on the last step in the bottom right corner, showing his interest in the subject.
The picture was painted in 1648, along with its pair, Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca. These were among the first works to be bought for the National Gallery in 1824, from the prestigious collection of John Julius Angerstein (1735–1823).
Seaport with the Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba
Oil on canvas
H 149.1 x W 196.7 cm