Nero before the Body of Agrippina the Younger

Luca Ferrari, detto Luca da Reggio

Reggio Emilia, 1605 – Padua, 1654


Oil on canvas, 145 x 170cm

This work was executed during the mid-1640s along with the corresponding work Queen Tomyris with the Head of Cyrus (inv. 413). It was added to the ducal collections shortly before 1854 (when it was first documented there). Though it’s origin is unknown, it is likely to have come from a private Emilian or Venetian collection. 

Long mis-interpreted as a ‘Death of Cleopatra’, this painting illustrates the rare subject of the astounded Emperor Nero before the attractive body of his mother, Agrippina, killed on his own orders (Tacitus. Ann. XIV). This is a refined example of the artist’s talent for easel paintings that were treated as expedients to paint scenes or “mezze-figure”, rich in fine details and characterized by vibrant colours, ample forms and a soft and sensual brushstroke.