The Bible relates how the Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10). Their meeting was often painted, but it was unusual to depict the Queen's embarkation. Many of Claude's paintings are concerned with the theme of journeying; here he creates an imaginary seaport.
This painting and 'Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca', also in the Gallery, were sold by Claude as a pair to the Duc de Bouillon (1605 - 1652), general of the Papal army. The pair complement each other depicting joyful occasions in the Old Testament. The Queen of Sheba is set down at dawn by the sea, and the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca takes place in the afternoon, inland.
'The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba' has a rigorous linear perspective and there is a pronounced symmetry between the left and right hand sides. The canvas is roughly divided into fifths. The architecture and horizon are placed in a balanced way within this grid.