ANDRÉ DURAND Twenty-First Century Paintings
ARRIVAL OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA
Dimensions: 51 x 63
Oil on linen
The story of the Queen of Sheba is found in detail in the Second Targum to Esther (literal translation of the greater portion by Grünbaum, l.c. pp. 211 et seq.). There, as in the Koran, it is the hoopoe that directed Solomon’s attention to the country of Sheba and to its queen. The dust of that land was more precious than gold, and silver was like dirt in the streets; the trees dated from the Creation and the waters came from paradise, whence came also the garlands which the people wore. The hoopoe carried Solomon’s letter under its wing to the queen, who resided at Kitor.
In the letter Solomon commanded her to appear before him, otherwise his hosts of beasts, birds, spirits, devils, and demons of the night would take the field against her. In terror she consulted with her elders and princes, who, however, knew nothing of Solomon. Notwithstanding their ignorance, she loaded her ships with costly woods, precious stones, and pearls, and sent to Solomon 6,000 boys and girls, all born in the same hour, all of the same height and appearance, and all clothed in purple. In the letter to Solomon which they bore with them, she declared that although the journey from Kitor to Jerusalem usually took seven years to accomplish, she would comply with his mandate and visit him within three years. He in his turn sent a youth “like the dawn” to meet her, and on her arrival he received her in a glass house. Thinking that Solomon was sitting in the water, she lifted up her skirt, whereupon he noticed hair on her feet, and said: “Thy beauty is a woman’s beauty, but thy hair a man’s hair; hair adorneth man, but disfigureth woman.”
The Queen of Sheba propounded to Solomon the following three riddles to test his wisdom: “What is a well of wood, a pail of iron which draws up stones and pours out water?” Solomon answered, “A tube of cosmetic.” “What is that which comes from the earth as dust, the food of which is dust, which is poured out like water, and which looketh toward the house?” Solomon answered, “Naphtha.” “What is that which precedeth all, like a general; which crieth loudly and bitterly; the head of which is like a reed; which is the glory of the rich and the shame of the poor, the glory of the dead and the shame of the living; the joy of the birds and the sorrow of the fishes?” Solomon answered, “Flax.”
Other riddles are quoted in the Midrash (Prov. ii. 6; Yalḳ. ii., § 1085): “Seven depart, nine enter; two pour, one drinks.” Solomon answered, “Seven days of woman’s uncleanness, nine months of pregnancy; two breasts of the mother at which the child is nourished.” “A woman saith unto her son, ’Thy father is my father, thy grandfather my husband; thou art my son; I am thy sister.’” Solomon answered, “This mother is one of the daughters of Lot, who were with child by their father” (comp. Gen. xix.). Arabic tradition also tells of Solomon solving riddles and of other proofs of his wisdom, and contains in general most of the stories found in Jewish tradition (Grünbaum, l.c.).