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The Temple of Jerusalem

The Dream of Solomon

Luca Giordano (1632-1705). Museo del Prado – Madrid. Ca. 1693.

Solomon then started to build a Temple for Yahweh in Jerusalem. Like his father he wrote to Hiram, king of Tyre for help. He needed cedar wood and juniper. Hiram also provided Solomon with wheat and oil. Solomon raised a levy throughout Israel for forced labour and he put Adoram in charge of the workers. Hiram sent workmen too and the huge stones for the foundation were laid immediately. Then, in the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt and in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, the Temple of Yahweh was built. The building of the Temple was done with quarry-dressed stone. No sound of hammer or pick was to be heard in the Temple while it was being built. It was roofed with a coffered ceiling of cedar wood. Annexes were built too. The inside of the Temple walls was lined with cedar-wood and the floor was covered with juniper planks. The length of the Holy of Holies, the Debir room, was twenty cubits. The Temple measured forty cubits in front of the Debir. The inside cedar wood was ornamentally carved with gourds and rosettes and no stone showed. The Debir was not only twenty cubits long but also twenty cubits wide and twenty cubits high. The inside of the Debir was overlaid with pure gold. The altar was of cedar wood and likewise overlaid with gold. Solomon had two winged creatures made of wild olive wood and had these covered with gold. The statues were placed in the Debir with open wings. In the eleventh year of Solomon’s reign the Temple was completed after seven years of work.

Solomon spent thirteen years building a palace. This also was a magnificent building, with a huge Hall of the Throne and a Hall of Justice.

Solomon now summoned the elders of Israel to Jerusalem to bring the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh from the City of David, that is Zion, into the new Temple. In the Ark were the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb. Then a cloud filled the Temple of Yahweh and the glory of God filled it. Then Solomon prayed to Israel and to Yahweh. The King and all Israel now offered sacrifices in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The splendour of Solomon’s reign grew. Solomon traded over the seas. He equipped a fleet at Ezion-Beber near Eliath. Hiram of Tyre sent experienced sailors to serve with Solomon’s men. Solomon sent out his own and Hiram’s fleet and these would return every three years laden with gold, ivory, and silver. Solomon became a wealthy trader. Pharaoh’s soldiers captured Gezer and Pharaoh gave the town to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. Solomon re-built Gezer. Solomon was very wealthy. He possessed great amounts of gold. He made a great ivory throne for himself, overlaid with refined gold. All Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold and so were the plates in his house of the Forest of Lebanon. Solomon had over three thousand three hundred chariots with horses, stationed in Jerusalem and in special chariot towns.

Luca Giordano was born in Naples in 1634. First his father, Antonio Giordano, taught him to paint and then he worked for a time with Jusepe de Ribera, the Spanish painter that had been called to the Naples by the Spanish ruler of Naples. In 1650 Luca Giordano painted together with Pietro da Cortona in Rome. He travelled also to other cities of Northern Italy, among which Venice. From 1665 on he painted mainly in Naples, but he also worked at times in Florence. His output grew prodigiously and he must have had a large workshop with many assistants. In 1692 he accepted an invitation from the king of Spain, Charles II, to become a court painter in Madrid. In 1702 he returned to Naples and he died there in 1705. Luca Giordano left a very extensive oeuvre that can only be compared to the production of the workshop of Pieter Paul Rubens of Antwerp. There is hardly a museum in Europe that does not pride in a picture by Rubens and by Giordano. He worked so fast that he earned the name ‘fa presto’. But working fast meant also often lack of originality, repetition of themes and copying of earlier views.

Giordano’s ‘Solomon’s Dream’ is one of his paintings in which we discern originality and fresh inspiration. As always with Giordano, the scene he shows is sumptuous. Solomon sleeps and Yahweh appears in his dream, surrounded by angels. Yahweh shines his light of wisdom into Solomon and he gives the king of Israel a vision of the Temple of Jerusalem. Behind Solomon we see the imposing walls of the enormous temple that Solomon would later build for Yahweh. Above the sleeping young Solomon sits the goddess Minerva, who was the ancient goddess of wisdom. Both will inspire Solomon in his judgements.

Luca Giordano used for structure the right diagonal but he opened an oblique band of light just above that diagonal. This structure is simple and could have been easily and rapidly conceived, then explained in elementary terms to assistants. The rays that shine out of Yahweh, parallel to the right diagonal, build that band and the rays are projected onto Solomon’s face. Around the rays there is light and towards the upper board of the frame more light is coming from the halo around Yahweh’s head. In this band of light, Giordano painted much darker tones that deepen more towards the corners of the frame. Luca Giordano used mostly yellow colours for the light, slightly going to orange in places. In the side scenes, which are triangles, he used green and blue shades that are very close and that are progressing to darker and to more grey hues. These colours form a quite harmonious view, even though the colour combination is a little strained. Still, the picture represents a dream and thus can be a little skewed in choice of complementary colours to evoke also a strange impression in the viewer of an un-natural, exceptional and uncommon atmosphere.

The painting ‘Solomon’s Dream’ of Luca Giordano is quite interesting in its decorative qualities, a feature that announces Rococo abundance and emphasis of decorative elements. We see it here in the angels painted by Giordano around Yahweh as well as in the many curved forms, the many folds in Yahweh’s robe and in the blankets on Solomon. Luca Giordano painted a nice, original view, in a very decorative picture. This was a painting to be seen rather rapidly and that could be understood rapidly by viewers. It would have been admired for its straightforward skill of efficiency in depiction. It was a painting that viewers could look often to. It was also however a piece of art made with love and dedication by a painter who was definitely out to please his audience and knew very well what to give. The picture has everything to please: a nice dreamy mood, sweet colours, a mythological content (Minerva) combined with a religious one (Yahweh) and a royal figure (Solomon), a beautiful nude of a young men resembling Apollo (Solomon) but kept decently covered enough for any church, and of course the sumptuous representation of the glory of the heavens. Commissioners would have been more than pleased with such a picture, so Luca Giordano received orders from all over Europe. His Neapolitan workshop was famous for its production all over Italy and well into the Southern Netherlands, where one can find such pictures still in small village churches.

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