The J. Paul Getty Museum

The Death of Cleopatra

Object Details


The Death of Cleopatra


Gerard Hoet (Dutch, 1648 - 1733)




Netherlands (Place Created)


about 1700 - 1710


Oil on canvas

Object Number:



57.8 × 69.5 cm (22 3/4 × 27 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, partially clad in an opulent blue and gold embroidered gown, sprawls across a sumptuous bed at the center of a splendid palace decorated with reliefs and marble statues. She has expired from the poisonous bite of an asp hidden in a basket of figs, thus thwarting Caesar's plans for her. Her attendant Iras lies dead in the foreground. Another maid, Charmion, makes final adjustments to Cleopatra’s diadem. Hoet closely followed Plutarch's account in "Antony'" (The Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans, 44:83) and portrayed the dramatic verbal exchange between Charmion and Caesar's messengers immediately following Cleopatra's death. In response to their angry demand "Was this well done of your lady Charmion?," she turned and replied "extremely well, and as became the descendant of so many kings," thereby characterizing her mistress' suicide as noble self-sacrifice. The soldiers sent by Caesar to confirm Cleopatra's death surround the bed, while palace officials, serving women and others rush into the chamber, their stricken faces and animated gestures conveying their agitation. The enormous tomb of Cleopatra's lover, the Roman soldier and politician Mark Anthony, occupies the left side of the composition.

A leading Dutch painter of history subjects around 1700, Hoet often painted pairs of related scenes. The Death of Cleopatra is the pendant to the Museum's The Banquet of Cleopatra, and the subjects present complimentary scenes of festive and tragic spectacle. A number of features link the two paintings: Cleopatra wears the same magnificent brocade gown, jeweled girdle and crown, and both scenes are set in similar interiors decorated with relief panels and a red and gray marble floor. Hoet's delicate brushwork and jewel-like palette combined with an array of eloquent gestures and expressions from the artist’s illustrated treatise on painting, enliven the scene. 


1750 - 1800

probably Unknown Collection (France)
Source: as suggested by the late-eighteenth century French stretcher.

by 1828

possibly John Smith [sold London, May 2, 1828 (£9.9)]
Source: "'The Death of Cleopatra.' The dying queen is reclining on a couch, surrounded by her attendants and others, who have rushed into the apartment on hearing the fatal news." Getty Provenance Index Databases; Lugt no. 11730.


Unknown Collection [sold, Lepke, Berlin, February 24, 1903, lot 56.]


Unknown Collection [sold, Dorotheum, Vienna, December 1-2, 1994, lot 43.]


Unknown Collection [sold, Christie's, London, April 7, 1995, lot 25 (est. £10-15,000; sold £20,700 [$33,130]) to Khalil Rizk.]

1995 - 2001

Khalil Rizk, died 2001, upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

2001 - 2008

Estate of Khalil Rizk, died 2001 [Khalil Rizk Collection sale, Sotheby's, New York, April 25, 2008, lot 324 (est. $20-30,000), bought in.]


Sotheby's (New York), sold to Jack Kilgore & Co., Inc. (New York), 2008.

2008 - 2009

Jack Kilgore & Co., Inc., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009.


Fredericksen, Burton B. Catalogue of the Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1972), p. 92, under no. 123.

Christie's, London. Important and Fine Old Master Pictures. April 7, 1995, p. 45, lot 25.

Sotheby's, New York. The Collection of Khalil Rizk. April 25, 2008, lot 324.