Normally for these posts, the Introducing Artists that I admire, I would showcase an artist, but since it is Easter Monday I thought we could do a shorter post and look at a painting. This painting is called The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giambattista Tiepolo. It was acquired by the National Gallery of Victoria in 1933 using the Felton Bequest.
Introducing Artists that I admire
While there are many artists you can admire, sometimes there are paintings that are so amazing that you should study them as well. This one is huge, and when I worked at the National Gallery of Victoria many years ago I saw it on a regular basis. I also heard many tour guides speaking about it.
One of the things that makes this painting so popular is the perspective used. I would take my girls to the gallery so we could walk from one side to another. As we did the lines on the ground would follow you. The pearl she was holding, I think, is the vanishing point for everything.
It is really clever, as that pearl becomes the focus point.
The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giambattista Tiepolo
The National Gallery of Victoria has a great page about the painting, which you can see by clicking here.
It has a great story.
A Story behind the painting
It is said that there was a bet between Mark Antony and Cleopatra. The bet was to see who could throw the most lavish banquet. Mark Antony went first and gave an extraordinary banquet, no expense spared.
When it was time for Cleopatra’s banquet she put on a simple table. There wasn’t a lot there. Just when Mark Antony thought he had won the bet, Cleopatra took off one of the priceless pearl earrings she was wearing and she dropped it into a glass of vinegar. It dissolved in the vinegar. She then picked up the glass and drank it. It was the most lavish banquet and she won the bet.
In the painting, you can see where she is about to drop the pearl into the glass of vinegar. This is why it is the centre of focus in the painting.
What we can learn
As photographers, it may seem that this painting has no relevance to us, but when you study it you can see that it is important. Look at the point of focus, the pearl, and how the painter has made everything in the image zero in on it. Perspective is incredibly important.
When you are working on your images, these are all things you should think about. How can you get your viewer to focus on what you want them too?
To see more information about the painting, click here.
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