Cleopatra With The Asp - c.1628 - Guido Reni (1575-1642)

Cleopatra With The Asp - c.1628 - Guido Reni (1575-1642)

Cleopatra, from her chamber (possibly in her mausoleum, possibly in her palace, where she is under house arrest) sends her conqueror, Octavian — the future Emperor Augustus — a sealed tablet, which he opens immediately. He reads her plea, begging to be buried with Antony, correctly interprets this as a suicide note and sends his guards sprinting the short distance to the chamber. What they find there will be etched into the collective memory as indelibly as the crucifixion of Christ. The great queen, seductress of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, lies in her royal robes, dead on a golden couch. One of her two maidservants, Eiras, lies dying at her feet. The other, Charmion, fighting unconsciousness, struggles to straighten the diadem on the royal head before herself falling lifeless. All three women have applied to themselves the poisonous fangs of an asp, which has been smuggled to them in a basket of figs.


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