The episode represented in Tiepolo’s The Banquet of Cleopatra is drawn from the Roman historian Pliny’s Natural History (written in AD 77). Here Pliny recounted the tale of a famous contest between the Egyptian and Roman rulers (who became lovers), whereby Cleopatra wagered that she could stage a feast more lavish than the legendary excesses of Mark Antony. Tiepolo’s painting shows the dramatic moment at the end of Cleopatra’s sumptuous repast when,
faced with a still scornful Mark Antony, she wins the wager with her trump card. Removing one of a pair of priceless pearls that adorn her as earrings, Cleopatra dissolves the pearl in a glass of vinegar and drinks it, an extravagance that causes Mark Antony to lose his bet.
From a text by Ted Gott on the National Gallery of Victoria's website.
A billboard off Smith Street, Fitzroy.