Cleopatra by Reni
Cleopatra by Guido Reni, engraved by W. H. Worthington, circa 1830
Cleopatra was a descendent of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the last Pharaoh of Egypt. She ruled as Queen from 51 B.C. until her death in 30 B.C. Her first three years as queen she was co-ruler with her younger brother and husband Ptolemy XIII, but conflicts arose between them, and she was forced to flee. After Ptolemy angered Julius Caesar, Cleopatra eager to solidify her claim to the throne met with him unbeknownst to her brother. They had an affair which produced a son, Caesarion. In 41 B.C. Cleopatra began an affair with Marc Antony which produced three children, twins Alexander Helios and Cleopatra Selene II, and son Ptolemy Philadelphus. When Octavian invaded Egypt, Antony committed suicide and Cleopatra, upon receiving the news of his death, followed suit. Cleopatra supposedly coaxed an asp into biting her and died from the snake's venom. Shakespeare popularized the representation of the asp biting her breast, most other tellings say she was bitten on the arm.
Guido Reni (1575-1642) was a Bolognese painter. He was one of the premier painters in Rome, under Pope Paul V and he was patronized by the Borghese family. After returning to Bologna, he established a successful studio. His style was thematic and electic and most of his works were biblical or mythological in subject. Reni was also a skilled etcher and his technique became the standard of Italian printmakers.
William Henry Worthington (c.1795-c.1839) was an English portrait and figure engraver. He produced plates for a number of publications, but is best known for his engravings of the Elgin Marbles for A Description of the Collection of Ancient Marbles in the British Museum. Worthington also exhibited a number of works on Shakespearean themes at the Royal Academy and British Institution.