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King Solomon

King Solomon

Alessandro Bonvicino called Moretto (ca.1490-1554). Pinacoteca Ambrosiana – Milan. 1545-1546.

Solomon now sat on the throne of David.

Adoniiah came to Bathsheba and asked for Abishag of Shunem in marriage. Bathsheba asked her son but Solomon would not yield on this. He wanted Adoniiah to pay for these words because Adoniiah was an elder brother and demanding marriage to Abishag amounted to ask for the kingdom. King Solomon commanded Benaiah son of Jehoiada to strike Adoniiah down, and that was how Adoniiah died. Abiathar the priest and Joab the army commander also had supported Adoniiah. Solomon deprived Abiathar of the priesthood, thus fulfilling the prophecy that Yahweh had uttered against the House of Eli at Shiloh. And Benaiah struck down Joab for Solomon. Solomon decided to that because Joab had killed two good men without David’s knowledge. These were Abner son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel under Saul, and Amasa son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah. Joab was buried at his home in the desert. In the place of Joab Solomon appointed Benaiah son of Jehoiada and in the place of Abiathar he appointed Zadok the priest.

Solomon was a great king. He became the son-in-law of Pharaoh, king of Egypt and he brought Pharaoh’s daughter to Jerusalem. Solomon loved Yahweh and he followed the precepts of his father David. He sacrificed at Gibeon, the principal high place and he sacrificed a thousand burnt offerings on the altar.

Alessandro Bonvicino was a painter of the larger Veneto region. He worked in Brescia. He must have lived from around 1490 to 1554 but very little is known of his life. His portrait ‘King Solomon’ was part of a set of pictures of which four remain: a ‘St John the Evangelist’, the ‘Samian Sibyl’ and ‘King Solomon’ now in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, as well as a ‘Magdalene’ in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Moretto painted Solomon as an oriental king. David wears a crimson cloak lined with ermine however, the traditional dress of the Venetian Doges. Senators of the government of Venice wore crimson velvet cloaks, but only the Doge also could wear the ermine shoulder cap that we see on Solomon in Moretto’s picture. The only detail that distinguishes David from a Doge is that he does not wear the Doge’s cap, but the turban. In the sixteenth century Palestine was in the hands of Muslims, who generally wore turbans. Moretto added to the turban the symbols of a crown, the red spikes, to represent Solomon as the idea of a European king. Various inscriptions also refer to Solomon as King and to David’s charge to Solomon as his successor. Moretto may have painted Solomon wearing a Doge’s clothing simply so that a viewer of the Veneto would easily understand that the figure of Solomon was an important one, the highest function in the country. Or he might have emphasised the justification for the Doge as the continuation of the power invested in David and Solomon. Moreover, the Venetian Serenissma was supposed to be a council or parliament of the wisest men of Venice. Solomon not only holds his ‘Book of Wisdom’ in his hand under his cloak, but he also points with his other, gloved hand, at the book. This marks the painting clearly for Venice or for use in a palace or a church of a region controlled by Venice. Solomon is indeed a judge more than a monarch, a wise, old, integer, and honest but also hard man. He has a square face that shows determination, vivid eyes and a full white beard that always indicates wisdom. This also Moretto emphasises the Doge more as a wise notable or judge than as a despotic king. That view was the most accepted one in Venice, which was a republic.

Moretto filled in the painting by adding background elements: remains of architecture in a stone slab, so old that a tree or bush has grown into it. Thereby the painter added to the impression of age of the image. Moretto’s painting is interesting in that a viewer sees how the image of the wise Solomon could be used for means that carry a political reference.

Other Paintings:

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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