The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 643

When the French art patron the abbé de Saint-Non and painter Jean Honoré Fragonard encountered this oil sketch in 1752, they described it as “filled with fire and genius.” With quick, energetic brushwork, Tiepolo distributed color and forms to craft a composition he would then paint at an enormous scale. Collectors and artists at the time appreciated a sketch-like aesthetic that seemed to grant access to the creative process. Two worlds meet here through the Roman general Mark Antony and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. Black attendants and a turbaned figure signify lands foreign to Tiepolo’s patrons. Yet Cleopatra is imagined without reference to Egyptian culture. She has been given European features and dress that would have been popular in seventeenth-century Italy.

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, Venice 1696–1770 Madrid), Oil on canvas

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