Cleopatra's Arrival in Cilicia

LL 3589


Etty was the most successful history painter in Britain in the first half of the 19th century. He grounded his work in academic discipline, spending long hours painting from the live model, and in his admiration for the great historical painters of the past, notably Titian and Rubens. He often borrowed their poses and followed them in using rich, sensuous colours and expressive brush strokes. This work, the subject of which was taken from Plutarch's 'Lives', was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1821 to great critical acclaim. The painting was commissioned by Sir Francis Freeling (1764 - 1836), Secretary to the Post Office, after he had failed to acquire Etty's chief exhibit at the previous year's Royal Academy. Freeling's commission may have specified a work of similar character to the previous year's work as elements of the handling are notably similar. However, this painting is a larger and far more ambitious work.