Cleopatra has inspired artists since the Renaissance. On the one hand, she was a great queen, whose attractiveness succumbed to Caesar and Anthony, the two most influential Roman military leaders. On the other hand, her tragic suicide, which deprived the winner of at least part of his triumph. However, ancient authors agree with the fact that Cleopatra was bitten by a snake in her hand. A bite in the chest is an invention of Shakespeare, which was later eagerly picked up by the visual arts.
Guido Reni: The Death of Cleopatra (1625-1630) painting by Guido Reni Maria Magdalene (1635)
Guido Reni shows Cleopatra in the pose of a repentant sinner. For comparison, on the right is his painting “Mary Magdalene” (1635). It depicts the same pose, and the same expression. The difference, besides the obligatory presence of the snake, is only in the lighting that promises to give divine grace to Mary Magdalene. In this case, the historical authenticity of two women, whose appearance and decoration corresponds to the XVII century, is absolutely not Continue reading