Here is the graceful and fiery Cleopatra, the wonderful and flaming Egyptian queen, created by the Italian sculptor Antonio Balzico in the 1870s, currently in the National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome.
‘Fie, wrangling Queen
Whom everything becomes – the chide, to laugh,
To weep, whose every passion fully strives
To make itself, in thee, fair and admired !!’
In the fertile strip of African land, extended towards the darkest seas, in the contrast between the transparent bluish waters of an immense river and the rays of the dazzling sun, lived a young woman with delicate, golden skin that tended to an indecipherable, light raven-black. She was beautiful with her amber hair, sinuous curves, and ample but well-shaped protruding breasts that would soon shake the world.
Eventually, she became one of the most famous female rulers in history, the last queen of the Macedonian dynasty that ruled Egypt, following the death of Alexander the Great.
She was a captivating, persuasive, and charming leader. She was well conversant in dozens of languages and was highly educated in difficult subjects like mathematics, philosophy, oratory, and astronomy. She was painted as a debauched temptress who used her sex appeal as a political weapon. But in an era when Egypt was in turmoil by internal and external battles, Cleopatra held the country together and proved to be a powerful leader. She was confident and clever enough to use her sexual charm and intelligence to gain the trust, love, and confidence of the two most powerful rulers of her time, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Antonio Balzico, the creator of the sculpture titled Cleopatra, was born on 18 October 1825 in Cava de’ Tirreni, a city and commune, 10 km (6 miles) northwest of Salerno. After completing his studies in literature, he began sculpting in wood, and then marble, and earned a stipend to study at the Academy of Arts in Naples. Sculptured in his mid-40s, Cleopatra depicts the beautiful and the gracefully dignified queen in a pensive mood, with a snake in a fruit basket, kept on the left side of her lap, and held in her left hand.
Probably, it was a few moments before she willingly embraced her death by being bitten by the poisonous snake in her basket, known as the asp, a symbol of divine royalty. The beautiful marble sculpture, depicting the queen with her alluring appeal, glistening skin, uncovered ample breasts with firm nipples, and exposed belly button, seems to be lost in her thoughts. Her expression, reflecting the meaninglessness of worldly achievements, is the highlight of the timeless sculpture.