What struck me (smack in my face) when I saw the painting Cleopatra and Caesar by Jean-Léon Gérôme was the eye-popping, jaw-dropping, drool-inducing beauty of Cleopatra. When I was done ogling at her I realized how prominently she is placed in the composition. Even the mighty Caesar (whom she is actually approaching for protection) is relegated to the darker background while Cleopatra seems to be dazzling in a 1000 watt limelight in the foreground.
The melancholy expression on her face, however, is in stark contrast with the alluring and powerfully enchanting body which she is in possession of. Her imploring gaze, full of entreaty is directed down at the table as if she is embarrassed to look directly at Caesar.
The original commission and the subsequent return by the French courtesan La Païva, the minor historical inaccuracy that arose out of the semantic change of the word “carpet” and other such trivial details about the painting can be gleaned later from the Wikipedia entry here. As of now get ready to be regaled in the sensuous beauty of Cleopatra…let the ogling begin!