Jacob Jordaens

Cleopatra's Feast

Cleopatra's Feast
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Jacob Jordaens
History Painting, Painting, Oil on canvas, 156.4x149.3 cm
Origin: Flanders, 1653

Pliny's Natural History is the source for the subject of this painting from the workshop of the Flemish painter Jacob Jordaens. Cleopatra , Queen of Egypt, was famed not only for her intelligence and her beauty, but also for her extravagant behaviour. Once, seeking to amaze with her wealth her beloved, the Roman commander Mark Antony, she dissolved a large pearl in a glass of vinegar, and then drank it down to the very last. Jordaens depicted the moment when Cleopatra drops the pearl earring into the vessel, while Mark Antony, his companion and a negro servant freeze in silent amazement, experiencing a mixture of envy, regret and admiration. Only the court jester shows with the gesture of his right hand and his grotesque grin the ridiculous nature of Cleopatra's wastefulness. The allegorical composition was seen as a judgment on Pride or Vanity, and this didactic subtext was typical of the Flemish school.

Personage: Cleopatra
Style: Baroque
Source of entry: State Museum Fund, 1937
Theme: History
Exibition: Flemish Art: 17th century

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