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Willem van Mieris (Leiden 1662-1747)
Willem van Mieris (Leiden 1662-1747)

The Death of Cleopatra

Details
Willem van Mieris (Leiden 1662-1747)
The Death of Cleopatra
signed and dated 'W.Van Mieris F. Anno 1694' (lower right)
oil on panel
9 x 7.7/8 in. (22.9 x 20 cm.)
in a mid 18th century, carved, gilded and pierced French rococo frame.

Lot Essay

The story of Cleopatra's death from the poison of an asp, smuggled to her chamber in a basket of figs, comes from Plutarch's Lives, although its fame today owes more to Shakespeare. Plutarch tells how: 'a country fellow brought her a little basket, which the guards intercepting and asking what it was the fellow put the leaves which lay uppermost aside, and showed them it was full of figs ... and, suspecting nothing, [they] bade him carry them in. After her repast, Cleopatra sent to Caesar a letter which she had written and sealed; and, putting everybody out of the monument but her two women, she shut the doors. Caesar, opening her letter, and finding entreaties that she might be buried in the same tomb with Antony, soon guessed what was doing. At first he was going himself in all haste, but, changing his mind, he sent others to see. The thing had been quickly done. The messengers came at full speed, and found the guards apprehensive of nothing; but on opening the doors they saw her dead, lying upon a bed of gold, set out in all her royal ornaments. Iras, one of her women, lay dying at her feet, and Charmion, just ready to fall, scarce able to hold up her head, was adjusting her mistress's diadem. And when one that came in said angrily, "Was this well done of your lady, Charmion?" "Extremely well," she answered, "and as became the descendant of so many kings."'
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