Statue of queen Cleopatra VII
h. 104,7 cm
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
Cleopatra VII ruled ancient Egypt as co-regent for almost three decades. She became the last in a dynasty of Macedonian rulers founded by Ptolemy, who served as general under Alexander the Great during his conquest of Egypt in 332 B.C. Well-educated and clever, Cleopatra could speak various languages and served as the dominant ruler in all three of her co-regencies. Her romantic liaisons and military alliances with the Roman leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as her supposed exotic beauty and powers of seduction, earned her an enduring place in history and popular myth.
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. 1606-1669
Woman with the Arrow (“Cleopatra”?), c. 1661
Etching, engraving and dry point
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
In 51 B.C., upon the apparently natural death of her father Ptolemy XII, the Egyptian throne passed to 18-year-old Cleopatra and her 10-year-old brother, Ptolemy XIII. Soon after the siblings’ ascension to the throne, Ptolemy’s advisers acted against Cleopatra, who was forced to flee Egypt for Syria in 49 B.C.
She raised an army of mercenaries and returned the following year to face her brother’s forces at Pelusium, on Egypt’s eastern border. Meanwhile, after allowing the Roman general Pompey to be murdered, Ptolemy XIII welcomed the arrival of Pompey’s rival, Julius Caesar, to Alexandria. In order to help her cause, Cleopatra sought Caesar’s support, reportedly smuggling herself into the royal palace to plead her case with him.
CAESAR AND CLEOPATRA
For his part, Caesar needed to fund his own return to power in Rome, and needed Egypt to repay the debts incurred by Auletes. After four months of war between Caesar’s outnumbered forces and those of Ptolemy XIII, Roman reinforcements arrived; Ptolemy was forced to flee Alexandria, and was believed to have drowned in the Nile River. Entering Alexandria as an unpopular conqueror, Caesar restored the throne to the equally unpopular Cleopatra and her younger brother Ptolemy XIV (then 13 years old). Caesar remained in Egypt with Cleopatra for a time, and around 47 B.C. she gave birth to a son, Ptolemy Caesar. He was believed to be Caesar’s child, and was known by the Egyptian people as Caesarion, or Little Caesar.
Caesarion at the Dendera Temple
Sometime in 46-45 B.C., Cleopatra traveled with Ptolemy XIV and Caesarion to Rome to visit Caesar, who had returned earlier.
After Caesar was murdered in March 44 B.C., Cleopatra went back to Egypt; Ptolemy XIV died soon after, and the three-year-old Caesarion was named co-regent with his mother, as Ptolemy XV. By this point, Cleopatra had strongly identified herself with the goddess Isis, the sister-wife of Osiris and mother of Horus.
With her infant son as co-regent, Cleopatra’s hold on power in Egypt was more secure than it had ever been. Still, unreliable flooding of the Nile resulted in failing crops, leading to inflation and hunger. Meanwhile, a conflict was raging in Rome between a second triumvirate of Caesar’s allies (Mark Antony, Octavian and Lepidus) and his assassins, Brutus and Cassius. Both sides asked for Egyptian support, and after some stalling Cleopatra sent four Roman legions stationed in Egypt by Caesar to support the triumvirate. In 42 B.C., after defeating the forces of Brutus and Cassius in the battles of Philippi, Mark Antony and Octavian divided power in Rome.
Charles-Joseph Natoire, (1700-1777)
The Arrival of Cleopatra in Tarsus, c. 1756
Museum of Fine Arts in Nîmes
Charles-Joseph Natoire, (French, 1700 – 1777), French Rococo painter. He was born on 3 March 1700. Son of an architect from Nîmes, he trained under Louis Galloche and François Lemoyne.
He was one of the youngest recipients of the Prix de Rome, winning the prize in 1721 for his Manoah Making a Sacrifice to God to have a Son.
At his return, he became one of the most prominent painters of the country, challenging his friend Boucher, who had a very similar style. Natoire however specialised in creating decorative ensembles for prestigious patrons, including the famous Story of Psyche for the Hôtel of the Duke of Rohan in Paris.
He was appointed academician on 31 December 1734. Then he had an important career, being promoted Adjunct Professor on 2 July 1735, Professor on 2 July 1737, and finally Director of the French Academy in Rome from 1751 to 1775. He subsequently gave up painting after his final departure to Rome and instead drew many landscapes of the Roman countryside. He died in Rome on 23 August 1777. More
Mark Antony soon summoned Cleopatra to the Sicilian city of Tarsus (south of modern Turkey) to explain the role she had played in the complicated aftermath of Caesar’s assassination. According to the story recorded by Plutarch, Cleopatra sailed to Tarsus in an elaborate ship, dressed in the robes of Isis. Antony, who associated himself with the Greek deity Dionysus, was seduced by her charms. He agreed to protect Egypt and Cleopatra’s crown, pledging support for the removal of her younger sister and rival Arsinoe, then in exile. Cleopatra returned to Egypt, followed shortly thereafter by Antony, who left behind his third wife, Fulvia, and their children in Rome. He spent the winter of 41-40 B.C. in Alexandria, during which he and Cleopatra famously formed a drinking society called “The Inimitable Livers.” In 40 B.C., after Antony’s return to Rome, Cleopatra gave birth to twins, Alexander Helios (sun) and Cleopatra Selene (moon).
John William Waterhouse, (1849–1917)
Cleopatra, c. 1888
Oil on canvas
John William Waterhouse (April 6, 1849 – February 10, 1917) was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He worked several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had seen its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, leading to his sobriquet “the modern Pre-Raphaelite”. Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.
Born in Italy to English parents who were both painters, he later moved to London, where he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Art. He soon began exhibiting at their annual summer exhibitions, focusing on the creation of large canvas works depicting scenes from the daily life and mythology of ancient Greece. Later on in his career he came to embrace the Pre-Raphaelite style of painting despite the fact that it had gone out of fashion in the British art scene several decades before. More
After Fulvia took ill and died, Antony was forced to prove his loyalty to Octavian by making a diplomatic marriage with Octavian’s half-sister Octavia. Egypt grew more prosperous under Cleopatra’s rule, and in 37 B.C. Antony again met with Cleopatra to obtain funds for his long-delayed military campaign against the kingdom of Parthia. In exchange, he agreed to return much of Egypt’s eastern empire, including Cyprus, Crete, Cyrenaica (Libya), Jericho and large portions of Syria and Lebanon. They again became lovers, and Cleopatra gave birth to another son, Ptolemy Philadelphos, in 36 B.C.
After a humiliating defeat in Parthia, Antony publicly rejected his wife Octavia’s efforts to rejoin him and instead returned to Egypt and Cleopatra. In a public celebration in 34 B.C. known as the “Donations of Alexandria,” Antony declared Caesarion as Caesar’s son and rightful heir (as opposed to his adopted son, Octavian) and awarded land to each of his children with Cleopatra. This began a war of propaganda between him and the furious Octavian, who claimed that Antony was entirely under Cleopatra’s control and would abandon Rome and found a new capital in Egypt. In late 32 B.C., the Roman Senate stripped Antony of all his titles, and Octavian declared war on Cleopatra.
On September 2, 31 B.C., Octavian’s forces soundly defeated those of Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium. Cleopatra’s ships deserted the battle and fled to Egypt, and Antony soon managed to break away and follow her with a few ships. With Alexandria under attack from Octavian’s forces, Antony heard a rumor that Cleopatra had committed suicide. He fell on his sword, and died just as news arrived that the rumor had been false.
Peter Paul Rubens, (1577–1640)
Cleopatra/ Hygeia, Goddess of Health, circa 1615
Oil on oak
Height: 130 cm (51.2 in). Width: 74 cm (29.1 in).
National Gallery in Prague
Peter Paul Rubens, (1577–1640)
Hygeia, Goddess of Health, circa 1615
Oil on oak
106.2 × 74.3 cm (41.8 × 29.3 in)
Detroit Institute of Arts
Sir Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640) was a Flemish Baroque painter. A proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, colour, and sensuality, Rubens is well known for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects.
In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England. More
Hans Makart, (1840–1884)
The Death of Cleopatra, c. 1875
Medium oil on panel
D122.5 × 83 cm (48.2 × 32.7 in)
The Death of Cleopatra, c. 1875-1876
Hans Makart (Austrian, 1840 – 1884), was a Austrian academic history painter, designer, and decorator. Studied under Josef Schiffmann and Karl Theodor von Piloty.
Son of a chamberlain at Mirabell castle. After a short study at the Academy in Vienna he was educated by Karl Theodor von Piloty in Munich (1860-1865) and travelled to London, Paris and Rome to study. He returned to Vienna after the prince Von Hohenlohe provided him with an old foundry to use as a studio. It gradually turned it into an impressive place full of sculptures, flowers, musical instruments, requisites and jewellery that he used to create classical settings for his portraits, mainly of women. Eventually his studio looked like a salon and became a social meeting point in Vienna. Makart became famous for his richly coloured history paintings and enjoyed his finest hour in 1879 with his painting of the procession in honour of the silver anniversary of the marriage of emperor Francis Joseph and his wife Elisabeth. In the same year he became a Professor at the Academy. Makart also designed furniture and interiors. More Hans Makart
On August 12, 30 B.C., after burying Antony and meeting with the victorious Octavian, Cleopatra closed herself in her chamber with two of her female servants. The means of her death is uncertain, but Plutarch and other writers advanced the theory that she used a poisonous snake known as the asp, a symbol of divine royalty. According to her wishes, Cleopatra’s body was buried with Antony’s, leaving Octavian (later Emperor Augustus I) to celebrate his conquest of Egypt and his consolidation of power in Rome.
Acknowledgement: History, Wikipedia,
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