PITTONI, Giambattista
(b. 1687, Venezia, d. 1767, Venezia)

Death of Sophonisba

Oil on canvas, 165 x 214 cm
Pushkin Museum, Moscow

Sophonisba was the daughter of a Carthaginian general at the time of the second Punic war. She married a prince of neighbouring Numidia, allied to Rome, and succeeded in alienating him from his Roman masters. But he was captured by another Numidian leader Masinissa, who in turn fell in love with Sophonisba, and likewise married her. To prevent the loss of a second ally from the same cause the Roman general Scipio demanded that she be surrendered and sent captive to Rome. Her husband, not daring to defy Scipio, sent her a cup of poison which she drank.

Sophonisba's death is a popular theme among Baroque painters of Italy and northern Europe.