For centuries, the history and the myth of Cleopatra has been a great inspiration for artists all around the world. Cleopatra's praised beauty, seductive powers, love affairs with two most powerful men of her time and her tragic, but poetic death has been the theme in the works of generations of creative minds, including Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Salvador Dali.
It is important to note, that aesthetics and the canons of beauty undoubtedly change over time and place. Therefore, Reneissance's Cleopatra and Cleopatra depicted in the Gilded Age Era will be absolutely different, but at the same time the most striking for the audience of the time when the new image was created.
On following paintings, Cleopatra is depicted as a glorious, sometimes ruthless Queen in her prime years. She enjoys the romances with Caesar and Anthony, throwing fabulous feasts and lives a lavish life of the self-proclaimed Goddess.
It is interesting that many artists disregard being historically accurate, and depict Cleopatra according to not only beauty standarts of their time, but also fashion styles. For example, on the works of Gerome, Cabanel and others, Cleopatra looks like an exotic oriental nymph. Lawrence Alma-Tadema, on the other hand, waived the oriental look in favour of more historically correct Hellenistic outfit.
It is interesting that many artists of Reneissance and 17th century were more likely to paint Cleopatra as a white skinned beauty with golden locks.
But after 19th century, artists started to give a preference to more exotic looking, darker Cleopatra.
The Death of Cleopatra
The death of Cleopatra has inspired more paintings than even her love life and glorious days of the reign. It is believed that Cleopatra has used an asp to kill herself as she did not want to be presented as an Augustus' trophy and be a part of his triumph.
It is documented that the Egyptian Queen has been bitten by a venomous snake in the hand, however Shakespeare in his Anthony and Cleopatra play, wrote that beautiful Cleopatra pressed a snake to her body and let it bite her breast. The sexualised version of Shakespeare has been enthusiastically taken by other creative artists, writers and filmmakers ever since.
Two almost identical paintings of Cleopatra by Benedetto Gennari. One blonde and one brunette Egyptian Queen.
Hope you enjoyed the selection of my favourite paintings and sculptures depicting the legendary Egyptian Queen. In the next post you will be able to see celebrities and models of our time channeling their inner Cleopatras on the red carpet and runways. Prepare for the golden fashion galore, and don't forget to check our daily updated Cleopatra Themed Shop.