Enrico Braga was born in Ticino in 1841 and studied at the Milan Academy of Fine Arts before an eight-year sojourn in St. Petersburg where members of the Imperial family numbered among his clientèle. Admired for his verve and realism of style he submitted numerous works to the Promotrice di Belle Arti di Torino between 1868 and 1879, exhibited in Rome and London and his bronze monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi still stands in Novara.
The present lot is a bronze reduction of Braga's celebrated marble of Cleopatra which was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, and in Paris in 1878 (fig. 1). The pose of the Queen and her servant is drawn from the painting Cleopatra before Caesar by Jean-Leon Gérôme (fig. 2), to which the sculpture is compared in the 1876 Exhibition catalogue:
'The incident is that where Cleopatra, being at war with her brother Ptolemy Dionysius, had herself conveyed to Julius Caesar, then in Alexandria; she was brought safely to the dictator through the armies of her foes, concealed in a roll of tapestry which was offered as a tribute to Caesar, and which Apollodorus carried in and opened at his feet. [The sculpture] preserves the posture of Gérôme's group - the slave, who parts the drapery, so supple and submissive; the girl, standing, and leaning on his shoulder as on a piece of furniture, already so queenly, confident and regal.' (E. Strahan, The Masterpieces of the Centennial International Exhibition, Philadelphia, 1876, Vol. I, pp. 143-144)