Bidding War Pushes Alma-Tadema’s Antony & Cleopatra Painting to $29.2 Million


Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s “The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC,” which depicts one of the most iconic moments in Roman-Egyptian history, sparked a bidding war at a May 5 auction at Sotheby’s New York. Then the bidding was over, the piece sold for $29.2 million, more than six times the pre-sale estimate.

NEW YORK – A masterpiece by Victorian artist Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema set an incredible price at Sotheby’s New York on May 5 when two determined phone bidders held a steady competition for “The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC.”

For more than eight minutes—an eternity during an auction—the two bidders drove up the final price to a remarkable $29,202,500, which was nearly six times the pre-sale high estimate of $5 million. This marks the highest auction price of the week in New York, and follows the $35.9-million record for the artist established at Sotheby’s last November by “The Finding of Moses.”

In “The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra: 41 BC”—an oil on panel painting measuring 25 ¾-inches by 36 inches—Alma-Tadema depicts one of the most storied moments in Roman-Egyptian history. Rather than using translations of ancient texts as source material, the artist instead drew inspiration for his composition from William Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” which was regularly staged in London’s theaters at the time. Alma-Tadema chose to depict a subtle and sensitive moment from a story filled with high-drama: the sensual memory of Antony’s first meeting with Cleopatra in Tarsus, proof that the Egyptian Queen was his true love.


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