(b. 1601, Sant'Arcangelo di Romagna, d. 1682, Wien)

The Death of Cleopatra

c. 1660
Oil on canvas, 120 x 158 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Cagnacci's familiarity with the work of Guido Reni and the masters of the Bolognese manner, and his stay in Rome and encounter with Caravaggio's painting, were a vital influence on his work. The Death of Cleopatra was painted during the period when the artist's broad figurative range was enriched by the Dutch pictures he had seen in Vienna. An outstanding example of Cagnacci's art, the painting is part of the long tradition of nudes that were painted under the pretext of representing mythological subjects. The sweet sensuality and languid amorous fatigue of the blond young woman contrast with the stiff and angular armchair. The entire composition is built up on an "architectural" system of regular units of form which does not allow for any ambiguity in the representation but rigorously supports the pictorial creation. Light and colour complete the definition of the figure.

The painting is signed in Latin on the left-hand upright of the chair: "GUIDUS CAGNACCIUS."

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