LAIRESSE, Gérard de
(b. 1641, Liège, d. 1711, The Hague)

Cleopatra's Banquet

c. 1675
Oil on canvas, 74 x 96 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The story goes that Mark Anthony, who was in charge of the eastern half of the Roman empire, invited to a banquet by Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen, expressed surprise at its magnificence. In reply, Cleopatra removed a priceless pearl ear-drop, and dissolved it in her glass of wine which she then drank, showing by this ostentatious gesture her indifference to riches. This scene is depicted theatrically by De Lairesse, it is looking as if it was conceived according to contemporary classicist ideas about stagecraft.