Artemis, Queen of Pergamus, prepares to drink the ashes of her dead husband, Mausolus, from a goblet offered her by a servant. In the background, the figure of an enigmatic old woman is just visible in the darkness.
This work has also been interpreted as a representation of Sophonisba drinking the poison sent by her husband from prision to help her avoid becoming the victim of Scipio Africanus’ concupiscence.
In either case, the subject is faithfulness and conjugal love, which would seem to indicate that the artist is alluding to his marriage to Saskia van Utylenbroch, which took place the same year that he signed this painting.
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