“The dying Cleopatra” is the first work in the history of Russian painting, dedicated to the figure of the ancient era, rich in great victories and great defeats. The picture captured an episode of the tragic death of the captivating Egyptian queen.
According to one of the versions, Cleopatra, the legendary beauty and wise ruler, having learned that she must obey Octavian and become a prisoner of his throne, committed suicide in her boudoir. Death was caused by the bite of a venomous snake, which a servant had carried to his quarters.
The famous figure was written in an unusual for the time style of the chest image. Such a strong and unusual perspective up to this point has been used only once – in the work “Peter I on his deathbed.” The queen is captured reclining with her head thrown back. Her gaze, directed upward, expresses suffering, bitterness and hopelessness.
The naked body is written in delicate, delicate strokes that perfectly convey aristocratic pale, translucent skin. A treacherous serpent lurked beneath the breast – herald of a quick death. On a dark background, Cleopatra radiates inner light as if it seems spiritualized and inaccessible. Her neat curls are beautifully decorated with pearls and fresh flowers. The image turned out refined and touching.
Despite the high tragedy of the plot, the picture is very sensual and intimate, not alien to no one eroticism. These features point to the then popular Rococo style of painting. Soft, cool, harmonious shades, beautiful contrast of a dark background and luminous, delicate skin, elegance and elegance – everything makes the canvas attractive to the eye.
“The dying Cleopatra” is exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery and is a wonderful example of the early work of Ivan Petrovich Argunov. His artistic style rapidly gained new features that make his subsequent works extremely different from this canvas.