Cleopatra – images of a dream woman – Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Cleopatra, the woman for whose love’s sake Antony is imagined to have given up the chance to rule the Roman world, has been inspiring painters, poets and (more recently) film-makers for over two millennia.
Their gorgeously voluptuous depictions of her offer insights into changing concepts of beauty, and into the racial and sexual assumptions underlying them.
Showing images ranging from Roman portrait busts, through medieval illuminations, the glorious works of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo, the splendour of Tiepolo and the exoticism of Gustave Moreau to 20th century film stars (Theda Bara, Claudette Colbert, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor and the Carry On team’s Amanda Barry), Lucy Hughes-Hallett shows how Cleopatra became a screen onto which artists have projected their wildly differing fantasies about exotic danger and erotic bliss.
Image above: Publicity shot from Carry On Cleo
Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of The Pike: Gabriele d’Annunzio – which won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Costa Biography Award – and of Cleopatra and Heroes. Her novel, Peculiar Ground was described as ‘almost Tolstoyan in its sly wit and descriptive brilliance’ (The Guardian) and ‘full of drama, vivid characters, wit, gorgeous writing and fascinating detail’. (New York Times)
A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Historical Association, she has reviewed for all of the UK’s serious newspapers and for Radio 3’s Night Waves, judged five literary prizes, and spoken at numerous literary festivals. She teaches Creative Writing at Arcadia University and at Arvon.
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