Rome, October 11 - The never-ending search for Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt whose controversial personality is still wrapped in mystery, is at the centre of a major show opening at Rome's Chiostro del Bramante on Saturday through February 2, 2014. The exhibit showcases 180 works of art on loan from Italian and international museums including Turin's Egyptian Museum, the British Museum in London and the Louvre in Paris, some of which have never been shown to the public before, to focus on Cleopatra's relationship with Rome (46-44 AD).
Only half a dozen works of art have been exhibited in Rome before at a show in Palazzo Ruspoli "which registered a record number of visitors in 2000", the exhibit's curator Giovanni Gentili said on Friday.
Young princess Cleopatra VII, known today simply as Cleopatra, became queen of Egypt on 51 AD and ruled a country in turmoil on the verge of collapse under the mighty Roman empire. The objective of the exhibit "Cleopatra. Rome and the magic of Egypt" is to investigate the queen's relationship with the Eternal City and the depth of Rome's fascination for Egypt. Only 17 when she took the throne, Cleopatra became one of Egypt's most powerful rulers, bonding on a political and personal level with two of ancient Rome's most powerful rulers, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. At first Rome was attracted by Egypt's "riches as the kingdom was the true granary of the Mediterranean", Gentili said, stressing that Cleopatra represented at the time an emblem of independence. Some two decades after coming to power, the queen took her own life in an act of defiance against the Romans and their hunger for her kingdom.
The queen was loved and adored as an incarnation of Isis, goddess of life and sea travel which was vital to Rome, and is represented as the goddess in a number of bas-reliefs showcased at the exhibit.
Augustan historians gave a rough sketch of the queen and attempted to play down her impact on Rome, stressing her unparalleled love for luxury rather than her influence over Roman society. Another show in Rome on Augustus opening on October 18 at the Scuderie del Quirinale until February 9,2014, also means to shed light on this era.
The Cleopatra exhibit is divided into nine sections focusing, among others, on Cleopatra's historic figure as well as on Hellenistic sovereigns;, gods and religions in Egypt under the Ptolemies; Cleopatra's relationship with Rome; Egyptomania, a section featuring beautifully crafted jewellery such as the Snake's body bracelet from the National Archaeological Museum in Naples; and the introduction of new religions in Rome.
The show includes outstanding pieces such as the 'Nahman' portrait of Cleopatra; a portrait of Octavia, Mark Anthony's wife and Emperor Augustus' sister, which was subsequently reworked to represent the powerful queen; and a portrait of the Egyptian queen at a very young age, probably dating back as far as 51 AD.
The Louvre's 'Guimet' bronze portrait of Mark Antony and Cleopatra's son, Alexander the Great is also showcased along with an little-known Nile mosaic from the Priverno Museum, south of Rome.