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C O U R S E 
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
Jeanette Hoorn, The University of Melbourne
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Tiepolo┬┤s Cleopatra: Agency in Paint
Notes taken on April 23, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
Tiepolo's Banquet of Cleopatra, 1744
set in the Palace of the Pharaohs in Alexandria around 140 BC
it's about a competition that Cleopatra made with her husband Marc Anthony
a bet about who was the most extravagant and therefore the most powerful regent in Rome of the day
Cleopatra wagered that she could spend the equivalent of 80,000 pounds of gold on one feast
after everyone had finished the meal, to further emphasize the control she emphasized over the resources of empire, Cleopatra took off one of the pearls she was wearing, and dissolved it in the wine in her glass
the story of the dissolving of the pearl appears in Pliny the Elder
in his Natural History
an example of the vice of luxury
the perspective point of the painting draws attention to Cleopatra's finger holding the pearl
each of the protagonists are accompanied by gender-specific dogs
Cleopatra has her lap dog
Anthony has his greyhound
Cleopatra focuses intently upon dissolving the pearl
Tiepolo demonstrates with the painting how Cleopatra subjugated Rome to her will and to her beauty and agency
allows the image of Cleopatra to seduce the viewer
a beautiful woman with blond hair and blue eyes
her actual skin color was probably darker
Tiepolo probably used that of his model
perhaps his wife or one of his daughters
she does not resemble Cleopatra's image on ancient coins
Cleopatra's costume
her frock made of golden silk is covered with pearls
flows elegantly over her body
a ruffle frames her neckline
the brooch in the center of her bodice shows a classical female figure
she is covered with pearls from head to foot
the many attendants emphasize her power
dresses in an array of silks and satins
the two Africans add a multicultural dimension to the composition
emphasizes the sense of power of Cleopatra by minimizing the impact of her husband Marc Antony
she addresses us with her face turned toward us
Antony is seen only at an angle with him facing in to the side, his back to the viewer
powerful body dressed in military attire
brass helmet
we don't see the full range of his facial features
we are not able to gauge his reaction to Cleopatra's acts of extravagance through which she asserts her agency
surrounding palaces of the pharaohs
this famous palace in Alexandria is widely discussed in ancient literature
appears in the writings of Lucan
a crowd of musicians which watch the banquet from above comment on the scene below
in the upper left-hand corner, a man points at Cleopatra
the opulence of the setting, richly attired servants, the magnificent architecture, and the attention of onlookers all conspire to bring Cleopatra's power to the fore