Mark Anthony and Cleopatra Series (Marco Antonio y Cleopatra)

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Mark Anthony and Cleopatra Series (Marco Antonio y Cleopatra)
The relationship between Roman Mark Anthony and the Egyptian Cleopatra is a frequently represented one. According to Plutarch in Parallel Lives, Mark Anthony was madly in love with Queen Cleopatra, which resulted in him making serious errors that led him to fail in his struggle with Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, after suffering a disastrous naval defeat at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC.

Two series in the cathedral of Burgos

Two series with the theme of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra arrived at the Cathedral of Burgos in the mid-17th century. One belonged to Juan Castro y Castilla, Count of Montalvo, who sold it to the chapter for 4,000 silver ducats in 1646; the other one belonged to the Archdeacon of Burgos, Juan Ayala de Guzmán, who donated it to the Cathedral in 1651. The first one was comprised of nine tapestries, all preserved, although not all currently exhibited. The second was originally made up by six pieces, of which four have been preserved and only one, ‘Cleopatra and her Court’, is exhibited.

Changes in location

Both series were originally hung from the pillars of the main chapel, in two overlapping rows. With the passage of time, some were hung in the Chapter House and some in the cloister. They were also occasionally taken out to the streets for special celebrations. Two tapestries of the Count of Montalvo series were damaged in a fire while part of a temporary arch erected in 1819 to receive Queen Josefa Amalia, the wife of Ferdinand VII.


J. Matesanz del Barrio, “La colección de tapices flamencos de la catedral de Burgos en la Edad Moderna”, Boletín de la Institución Fernán González, Vol. 236 (2008), pp. 111-131.

Series Mark Anthony and Cleopatra (Originally comprised of six cloths, of which four are preserved and only one is exhibited)

Model Cartoon attributed to Pieter Coecke van Aelst

Manufacture Brussels?, 2nd half of 16th c.

Fabric Silk and wool

Origin A bequest to the cathedral in 1654 by Archdeacon Juan de Ayala Guzmán

Location Corpus Christi chapel in the cathedral of Burgos


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