Upon seeing her mother Cleopatra beginning to collapse from poisoning, Rodugune starts up from her throne. Her troubled, histrionic expression recreates the high drama of Pierre Corneille's most successful tragedy Rodugune, from which the dramatist and painter Charles-Antoine Coypel took this subject. Drawing from a live model who may have worn the full costume in his studio, Coypel concentrated on suggesting sudden movement and capturing the play of light on the princess's elaborate dress. He created the sense of a shimmering, luxurious fabric using his characteristic, soft handling of black and white chalk.
Coypel made this drawing as a preliminary study for a cartoon for a tapestry to be woven by the Gobelins Manufactory. The squaring indicates that the design for this single figure was transferred to the larger composition of the cartoon and to an oil modello.