Seated under a canopy at the lavish banquet she hosts for Marc Antony, Cleopatra holds a glass of wine in which she is about to place a priceless pearl earring as an ostentatious sign of her indifference to wealth. The pearl dissolves in her wine, which she then drinks to Antony's health. In return, he presents her with Cyprus, Phoenicia, Coele-Syria, and parts of Arabia. When Jacques Amyot translated Plutarch's Life of Marc Antony in 1559, Europeans rediscovered the legend of the beautiful, brilliant, and powerful Cleopatra; the story was soon reproduced in media such as drama and paintings.
Gerard Hoet set this scene from the first century B.C. in a late Baroque interior that he might have seen when he visited Paris in the mid-1670s. Three versions of the Banquet of Cleopatra by Hoet survive, all of which show his emphasis on rich clothing and accessories. His works typify the classicizing style of Dutch academic art; as its foremost proponent, Gerard de Lairesse, wrote, "Away with fumbling, grubbing, and messing: attack your work with a manly hand. But not like Rembrandt ...so that the sap runs down the piece like dung."