Antony and Cleopatra
10th Tiberius Auction
Signed, dated & inscribed:
Height 90 cm, width 45 cm, depth 33 cm
The Neoclassical sculpture group consists of a pair of female figures in the antique type. One of the figures is depicted in a Roman commander’s garment consisting of breastplate, leggings, and a helmet trimmed with a plume of feathers; the woman also carries a staff with insignia in her left hand. The paludamentum, the cloak, appears to be loosely draped over the shoulders. The second figure, clad in a long chiton belted at the waist, embraces the left shoulder of the martial figure with her left hand, probably in an embrace. While the armoured woman is shown in a self-confident lunge – resting on her left standing leg and placing her right playing leg in a broad stance in front of her body – the second figure seems to be in motion and almost rushing towards her.
The type derives from an ancient Roman model, with the martial figure following the so-called Ares Borghese and the figure in the long robe that of Aphrodite da Capua. An ancient comparative example is in the Uffizi (inv. no. Sculture (1914) n. 4) and shows the divine couple Venus and Mars, the goddess of beauty and the god of war. However, Mars is in heroic nudity, and Venus is only covered from the waist down. Numerous later rulers identified with this type and had their spouses depicted like this famous pair of lovers, for example Marcus Aurelius and Faustina the Younger or Hadrian and Sabina in the 2nd century CE. An identification with a pair of lovers with a tragic fate also seems very conclusive, namely the depiction of the Roman general Marcus Antonius and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, particularly inspired by the Roman drama “Antony and Cleopatra” completed by William Shakespeare around 1606/07. Sculptural themes of this kind were also very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries when, for example, Antonio Canova (Possagno 1757 – 1822 Venice) created a version for the later George IV around 1815. This sculpture was probably commissioned by an expert aristocrat in the mid-18th century.
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