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Donato Creti, Artemisia drinking the Ashes of Mausolus

Key facts
Full title Artemisia drinking the Ashes of Mausolus
Artist Donato Creti
Artist dates 1671 - 1749
Date made about 1713-14
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 62.7 × 49.9 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by the Trustees of Sir Denis Mahon's Charitable Trust through the Art Fund, 2013
Inventory number NG6628
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Artemisia drinking the Ashes of Mausolus
Donato Creti

A servant presents Artemisia, queen of the ancient Greek city of Halicarnassus, with a cup containing the ashes of her dead husband Mausolus, which she was said to have drunk in order to become his living tomb. Artemisia gazes solemnly upward, her face pale. With her mouth slightly open, she is either poised to drink the contents of the cup or has just done so.

Our eye is drawn along the serving girl’s crisp yellow drapery towards the tray in her outstretched hand. This diagonal is continued by the bowl in Artemisia’s hand and culminates in her sorrowful face. Creti was known for elegant compositions such as this, and for his precise handling of form. Here, the servant’s graceful profile and intricate hairstyle are painted with his meticulous, almost calligraphic brushwork.

Creti based his composition on Giovan Gioseffo dal Sole’s painting of the same subject (Galleria Corsini, Rome).

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