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'Intemperance' shows Mark Antony embracing Cleopatra as she drops a pearl into her goblet of wine. Mark Antony was one of the three triumvirs, rulers of Rome. He and Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, were lovers. John Lempriere's 'Classical Dictionary', first published in 1788 and well known to many artists and writers of Stothard's day, notes that 'Cleopatra was a voluptuous and extravagant woman, and in one of the feasts she gave to Antony at Alexandria, she melted pearls in her drink to render her entertainment more sumptuous and expensive.'. This picture relates to a large-scale decorative scheme which Stothard painted for the staircase at Burghley House, Northamptonshire.

August 2004