Cleopatra


The composition is a fairly liberal stylistic exercise based on themes of Ancient Egyptian art. The artist used for the exercise the legend of Cleopatra, the celebrated ruler of Ancient Egypt, featuring the traditional iconography of a “walker” – an essentially static figure whose movement is emblematically represented by a leg put forward, whereas the point of gravity is absolutely balanced and the lines of the shoulders and hips do not match a walker’s movements. However, a departure from tradition is noticeable: slight slants of the axes indicate a transfer of the point of gravity, producing an impression that the figure is swaying a little and moving in an unhurried and stately fashion. Of course the sculpture does not have any overt dynamism and the complex rhythms of a contrapposto, but its composure is already compromised. The piece has no intention to reproduce a replica of ancient sculptures. Its accessories (a grotesquely large wig), the marked sensuality of the woman’s attractive shapes, the elements of the appearance such as an expressive face almost traced with black and immense beaming eyes, have a modern feel. The new rhythms also come through in the forceful gesture of Cleopatra’s hand gripping the rod. Because of the deliberate purity and brightness of the richly contrasted colours, the statue looks more like a mythopoetic image rather than a portrait of a real person once living in the world.

 

Brief annotations to the image

CLEOPATRA VII PHILOPATOR (69 BC – 30 BC), a descendant of the Ptolemaic dynasty (the issue of Lagus), was the last pharaoh of Hellenistic Egypt. She owes her fame to her liaisons with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. She was a fabulously charming, attractive and educated woman with a captivating voice and brilliant razor-sharp wit. According to legend, she committed suicide by using a venomous snake whose bite was believed to bestow immortality.