Historic Drama to Artistic Masterpiece: Cleopatra by Julius Kronberg

  • February 13, 2019 16:04

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Cleopatra by Julius Kronberg. Signed and dated 1883. This incredible Academic masterpiece was commissioned in 1879 by Count Fredrick Wachtmeister and resided in Tistad Castle for over 130 years.
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans
Wrought with depth, emotion and awe-inspiring details, this incredible oil on canvas is one of the handful of stand-alone paintings Kronberg ever composed.
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans
The artist's signature and date are clearly visible in the lower right of the canvas.
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

A larger-than-life personality guided by power, political alliances, civil wars and seduction, Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra VII has inspired countless generations of artists to capture some of the most telling moments of her life in nearly every medium imaginable. But no other portrait captures the dramatic end of her remarkable existence than this monumental genre masterpiece by Swedish artist Julius Kronberg.


This breathtaking original oil on canvas measures over 13 feet tall, allowing the viewer to immerse themselves in the very moment Cleopatra famously took her own life by allowing a highly poisonous asp to bite her. It is believed Kronberg’s inspiration was William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra which was published in Sweden for the first time in 1825.


After Antony and Cleopatra’s defeat at the hands of Octavian, Antony took his own life mistakenly believing his beloved Queen was already dead. News of this reached Cleopatra who, overtaken by both the grief of his loss and pride in not wanting to surrender, she decides to commit suicide with her handmaidens, Charmain and Iras. It is this very moment Kronberg depicts – with Iras already dead on the ground and Charmain writhing in agony as Cleopatra grabs the asp with a posture of strength and determination in her expression.


Taking cues from Orientalist works, the artist presents an amazingly intricate and vibrant interior that exudes exoticism and spectacle, with the Queen and her two attendants set amidst the lavishness of a royal chamber. This is marvelously juxtaposed by their twisted, strained poses which exude the tragedy and anguish unfolding in this tour de force of Academic art.


Kronberg created very few stand-alone paintings during his career, preferring large-scale murals and ceiling works. Those he did execute were commissioned by wealthy, private Swedish clients. This very work was painted for Count Frederick Wachtmeister and his family’s Tistad Castle, where this painting resided until just recently. With the majority of those few paintings residing in prestigious Swedish museums, this grand masterwork stands as arguably the greatest Academic work of art currently on the market.


Learn more about Cleopatra by Julius Kronberg


About M.S. Rau Antiques:
M.S. Rau Antiques has spent over 100 years earning the trust of discerning collectors worldwide. Located in the heart of New Orleans’ historic French Quarter, our peerless showroom houses one of the world’s most extensive and stunning collections of museum-quality fine art by artists such as Claude Monet and William Bouguereau18th- and 19th-century antiques, and breathtaking jewelry, including rare colored diamonds.

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A New Orleans institution for over 100 years, M.S. Rau is among the premier fine art and antiques galleries in the world. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, our gallery overflows with incredible antiques by names including Tiffany & Co., Paul Revere and Fabergé. Our unparalleled selection of important, original paintings and sculpture spans the 16th through the 21st century, including legendary artists such as Brueghel, Monet and Rockwell, while our diverse selection of exquisite jewels, including rare colored diamonds, Kashmir sapphires and Burma rubies is without equal.

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