Alexander the Great Rescued from the River Cydnus

Pietro Testa Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 620

According to Testa’s earliest biographer, the artist sought to study the light and atmosphere of night by standing along Rome’s Tiber River “drawing and observing some reflections of the rainbow in the water.” The results were melancholy landscapes that prefigure the work of nineteenth-century Romantic landscape painters. It was in such a situation of direct observation by night that Testa evidently drowned, allegedly by suicide, in 1650. This dramatic depiction of Alexander the Great suffering from a sudden chill while bathing in the river Cydnus is considered one of his final paintings, and it eerily echoes his biography.

Alexander the Great Rescued from the River Cydnus, Pietro Testa (Italian, Lucca 1612–1650 Rome), Oil on canvas

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