The Banquet of Cleopatra
France – 18th century
Wool and silk
Height : 290 cm (114,1 in.) ; Width : 350 cm (137,8 in.)
Important tapestry illustrating the Banquet of Cleopatra, from the series of « The Story of Mark Antony and Cleopatra »
Cleopatra and Mark Antony, richly dressed, attend an opulent banquet in a garden, surrounded by soldiers and servants. Cleopatra is about to dissolve a pearl in the glass of Mark Antony.
An elegant border richly adorned with flowers and foliage frames the scene.
This episode, told by Pline in his Natural History (from the book IX : Cleopatra and pearls), illustrates the pomp and excesses of banquets organized by Cleopatra. Boasting about her ability to spend in one dinner ten millions of sesterces to impresse her host, she dissolves in vinegar one of her earrings made of the largest pearl in the world. Mark Antony must then admit her victory.
This theme has been the subject of many weavings over the centuries in different manufactures, after the models by Isaac Moillon (1614-1673), Karl Mander II (1579-1623), Juste d’Egmont (1601-1674) or Charles Person (1609-1667).
Tapestries were used to richly decorate a house and keep the heat inside a room by diminishing the cold radiation of the stones. It could be quickly and easily disassembled to be transported to another house. From a millefleurs decor at the beginning of the art of tapestry, the weavers have managed to increase the woven surfaces allowing the narrative unfolding of a story (biblical, mythological or literary stories) through hangings, set of tapestries on the same subject.
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