The Death of Cleopatra

Guido Cagnacci Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 620

Cagnacci’s erotically charged and emotionally engaging subject appealed to the Baroque imagination in poetry, theater, and painting. Taken from the ancient Greek writer Plutarch’s Lives, Cleopatra commits suicide with a viper bite following the defeat of her beloved, the Roman Mark Antony. Cagnacci’s treatment is indebted to Guido Reni, but the flagrant sensuality of her upturned eyes, flushed cheeks, and exposed breast is singular. The lethal serpent winds with unlikely elegance around her arm, the violence of its fangs hidden behind her gracefully posed hand.

The Death of Cleopatra, Guido Cagnacci (Italian, Santarcangelo di Romagna 1601–1663 Vienna), Oil on canvas

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