GHIBERTI, Lorenzo
(b. 1378, Firenze, d. 1455, Firenze)

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

1425-52
Gilded bronze, 79 x 79 cm
Baptistry, Florence

This panel is at the bottom right of the east doors. The subject matter of the meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba is rarely depicted in this period, leading to speculation that it was included deliberately to represent the union of the Eastern and Western churches, which was announced on the steps of Florence's Duomo on July 9, 1439, as the fruition of a Church council which had met there. Virtually the entire Byzantine court, including the Emperor of Byzantium, John VIII Paleologus, had travelled from Constantinople to participate in this council. The Eastern Church is metaphorically represented by Sheba, the queen who came to Solomon from the East, while the Western Church is represented by Solomon. The figures in the mid-ground, separated by parapets, align in formal, diagonal rows at either side of Solomon and Sheba, enhancing the sense of spatial recession. The figures in the foreground jostle for glimpses of the meeting.