Cleopatra’s love to death

Although Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” adapted from the ancient Roman historian Plutarch’s “Comparative Biography of Greco-Roman Famous People”, his interest in politics is no less than his interest in love. More eternally human than a political event. Cleopatra VII (the former 69-30) and Mark Antony (82-30) are both young men, although Cleopatra “doesn’t have the looks of the dead, more I can’t talk about the body of the country and the city, but she has an irresistible charm, getting along with her like a spring breeze, beautiful appearance and moving conversation, revealing a unique temperament between words and actions, it is indeed able to. Turns all beings upside down. It is a delight to hear her sweet voice alone, her articulation like the most delicate stringed instrument, capable of translating different languages ​​at any time.” (Plutta, The Complete Works of Plutarch Ke, translated by Xi Daiyue, p. 1658, Jilin Publishing Group Co., Ltd., 2017 edition) and Mark Antony was a Roman general and one of the three rulers. Therefore, poets and playwrights have reasons to describe that, in Cleopatra’s eyes, Antony is a “giant who supports half the world, a valiant leader of all mankind”; No matter whether she is angry, crying or laughing, “every emotion is so lovely; every emotion is fully expressed in you”; The earth; . . . the glory of life consists in the timely mutual love and warm embrace of a loving couple.” It is not difficult to understand, and the fact is that readers thousands of years later will be far more interested in the love between this pair of men and women than in the politics they are entangled in. Most of the artwork based on the play also naturally focuses on their love story.

Faulkner: Cleopatra greeting Antony, a painter named Faulkner, depicts the queen of Egypt coming down the steps to greet the Roman general with a trumpet played by a band. And Alma-Tadema, who wrote The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra, has no regard for his position in art history or his attention to the protagonist. Not to be underestimated.

Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), who was born in the Netherlands and later became a British citizen, may have heard from his devout mother, or heard ” The stories about Egypt in the Bible, I have known about Egypt since I was a child. Later, he had a strong interest in Egypt for a large part of his life. He not only went to the British Museum and the World’s Fair for many times to watch and study cultural relics related to the East and ancient Egypt, but also went directly to Egypt to conduct field investigations, and extensively collected and recorded images of Egyptian architecture, monuments and artworks, as well as Egyptologists. and the writings of travelers, drawing inspiration from these places.

Alma-Tadema has created many paintings about Egypt, such as “Entertainment in Ancient Egypt 3000 Years Ago”, “The Entertainer of Egypt”, “An Egyptian Widow in the Age of Diocletian”, “The Chess Player of Egypt”, “Pharaoh’s Granary” The Overseer Joseph, etc. He also painted the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra.

Alma-Tadema painted a painting titled “Cleopatra” in 1858 while studying in the studio of her predecessor, Louis de Taeye. . Not sure what the composition of the painting was, as he had destroyed it, probably similar to this Egyptian beauty he repainted almost twenty years later. Art historians say this shows that Alma-Tadema appeared to have been a self-critical student by then.

More than a decade later, in 1875, Alma-Tadema set out to paint Cleopatra again. His contemporary biographer Helen Zimmern claimed that Cleopatra was painted with his mother Bernice Zimmern as a model; another An art historian Vern Swanson wrote in 1990 that Cleopatra resembled the bust of the Queen in the British Museum. Alma-Tadema painted two versions of the Egyptian beauty this time: in this more restrained version from 1875, Cleopatra sits on a modest pillow; in this more restrained version from 1875; In the 1877 painting, there is a green cloth in the background. In both versions, she wears the same earrings, but the bracelet only appears in the previous one.

In 1883, Alma-Tadema returned to the theme of Cleopatra with a large oil painting, The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra. Robert Welhert points out:

The painting, inspired by Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, shows the queen sitting in a yacht, waiting for a Roman general from Alexandria to meet her. To create, he again used (Egyptologist John Gardner) Wilkinson’s writings. He tried to give the best possible representation of history, as he wrote to his friend the Egyptologist Georg Ebers: “This painting bothers me the most at the moment. It’s still Cleopatra and Mark Antony’s first meeting in the waters of Alexandria. Outside a Roman battleship with three decks of oars, with the blue sky and sea in the background. I hope to finish it by the end of this month.”

After the work was completed in 1883, Alma-Tadema refrained from painting Egyptian themes for almost two decades, replacing it with portraits of ancient Rome and family and friends.

The paintings depicting Cleopatra, probably the most painted, depict her suicide. This is to be expected.

Although there was love and betrayal between Cleopatra and Antony, Heine once pointed out when talking about their love: “She was in love and betrayal at the same time. She thought that if a woman betrayed us, she would no longer love us. , that was a mistake.”

The final act of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra focuses on her mortal love: “Go and fetch my most splendid clothes; I will go again to the Cytnas to meet Mark Antony. Yes”; “Have you caught that lovely worm in the Nile that can kill a man without suffering?” “I have a longing for eternal life in my heart…I seem to hear the call of Anthony… My husband, here I am. May my courage prove to me that I can be your wife!” “The stab of death is like the twist of a lover’s hand, though it hurts, it is indeed a wish.” Sweet as balm, gentle as the breeze—ah, Anthony!—let me pick you up too. (Takes another snake on arm) What can I miss—(death)”

The French painter Alexander Cabanel (1823-1889)’s “Cléopatre essayant des poisons sur des condamnés à mort” (Cléopatre essayant des poisons sur des condamnés à mort) depicts the process of her dying. Although the title of the painting says “testing poison on death row prisoners”, it shows that the queen is waiting for her own death.

The main character on the screen is Cleopatra, accompanied by her handmaiden, observing a poison experiment of her own devising. This is undoubtedly the last test. After this observation, she will decide which poison and which “worm” (snake) venom she chooses to “put people to death without pain”. On the left side of the painting, a death row inmate, possibly dead, is being carried away, while the other is reclining on the ground in pain. Although their end was her own future, she was meticulously made up and dressed in “the most gorgeous outfit”, sitting on a bright red sofa with her left hand propped on the edge of the seat and a bright bouquet of flowers raised in her right hand, showing her Calm mood. This is exactly what she seeks, to keep herself in her graceful demeanor at all times.

From July 10, 2010 to January 2, 2011 and from January 4, 2011 to May 15, 2011, organized by the “Fabre Museum” in Montpellier, France, “Alexandre Cabanel: Beauty of Beauty” Tradition” (Alexandre Cabanel: La Tradition du Beau) exhibition was exhibited at the museum and at the “Wallraf-Richartz Museum” in Cologne, Germany. This is the first retrospective that Cabanel has held since his death, and the scale is huge. Writing in an essay, art critic Allison McQueen called “Cleopatra on Death Row” “the most shocking work” of the death-like paintings at the exhibition.

There are also many paintings showing Cleopatra’s love and death, such as “The Death of Cleopatra” (1658) by the 17th-century Italian painter Guido Cagnacci (1601-1663). ), The Death of Cleopatra by the 18th-century French painter Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829), an anonymous painter in the late 19th century based on Shakespeare’s play Created works depicting the Queen’s distress in the face of Antony’s death, as well as French painter Reginald Arthur’s The Death of Cleopatra (1892), and even And the Philippine painter Juan Luna y Novicio (1857-1899) also showed her death in “Cleopatra”, whether it depicted her sitting there or lying in bed, There seems to be a lack of dynamic, and it always feels a little flat.

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