A Woman Drinking

The Woman drinking is likely to be Sophonisba, a Carthaginian whose husband sent poison to her so that she would be able to kill herself rather than be taken into slavery. She was celebrated in Livy's 'History of Rome' (30: 15) and Petrarch's 'Triumph of Love'. Alternatively the woman might be Artemesia, the devoted wife and sister of Mausolus, Prince of Caria in the 4th century BC. After his death, she drank his ashes mingled with wine.

This panel and 'The Vestal Virgin Tuccia with a sieve' are obviously related despite their differing size and being lit from opposite directions. They are painted in simulation of gilt bronze against a fictive background of coloured marble. Isabella d'Este had a 'feigned bronze' picture by Mantegna in her studiolo, and these may have been for a similar interior.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1431 - 1506
Full title
A Woman Drinking
Date made
about 1495-1506
Medium and support
Egg tempera on poplar
71.2 x 19.8 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1882
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Other paintings in the group: Two Exemplary Women of Antiquity

Andrea Mantegna
about 1495-1506
Andrea Mantegna: 'The Vestal Virgin Tuccia with a sieve'