Ethiopian Christian Art

The story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, a traditional subject of Ethiopian art, appears in this rendition by Janbaru Wandemu, painted in the 1950s. Recorded in the Kebra Nagast ( Glory of Kings), a literary work preserved in manuscripts from the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century C.E., the story may have existed as early as the sixth century C.E. It tells of the descent of the the Ethiopian monarchs from Solomon and Makeda (the Ethiopian name for the Queen of Sheba) and of the bringing of the Ark of the Covenant to Ethiopia.

The 44 panels, laid out according to a traditional format, progress along the horizontal rows from upper left to lower right. The story begins (panel 1) with Wainaba, the snake dragon at upper right, ruling Ethiopia. The people agree to make Angabo king if he kills this monster (2). Angabo mixes a poison (3), feeds it to his goat (4) and feeds his goat to Wainaba (6). This kills Wainaba (7), and Angabo becomes king (8–9). When Angabo dies (10), his daughter Makedda becomes queen (11).

A merchant takes perfume from Queen Makedda to King Solomon and Makedda travels to Jerusalem. King Solomon sleeps with Queen Mekadda's maid and Makedda. He gives Makedda a ring as a token of faith. Queen Mekadda gives birth to a son called Menilek. He grows up and travels to Jerusalem to see his father. Menilek brings the Ark of the Covenant back from Jerusalem and his mother crowns him and gives him the royal seal. Queen Makedda dies and Menilek sets up monuments to her in Aksum.

It was donated to the Rumble Museum by Professor Judith McKenzie from the University of Oxford.