The present depiction of the dying Cleopatra is the work of a painter from the circle of Benedetto Gennari, a student of Guercino (1591-1666). Gennari mainly depicted allegorical and mythological themes, and he was also a master of portraits. Gennari has often visited the subject of Cleopatra (69 BC - 30 BC). She was the last queen of ancient Egypt. Even such important figures such as Caesar and Mark Antony succumbed to her charm. According to ancient sources, Cleopatra died by a snake bite. In the present depiction, the dramatic event was implemented through the strategic use of light and shadow.
Benedetto Gennari belonged to a dynasty of painters. His teacher Guercino was a grandson of Benedetto Gennari I (1563-1658). In 1672, Gennari II went to Paris at the court of King Louis XIV, and received numerous commissions. In 1674, he moved to London and became court painter to Charles II of England and his successor James II. When James II was dethroned, Gennari followed him to the court in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. In 1692, Benedetto Gennari returned to Bologna. More