The Death of Dido

Dublin Core


The Death of Dido

Artwork Item Type Metadata

Agent Name

Cayot, Claude-Augustin

Agent Role


Agent Culture




Time Period

18th century





Work Type



Dido, Queen of Carthage, was abandoned by Aeneas and killed herself in despair. For his reception piece at the Academy in 1711, Cayot treated this dramatic Virgilian episode with virtuosity, neglecting neither the drama of the moment nor the sensuality of the abandoned queen.

The iconography
Dido, the founder and queen of Carthage, has just been abandoned by the Trojan hero Aeneas, son of Venus, gone in search of a new kingdom. She decides to kill herself on a pyre built to burn her faithless lover's possessions. The theme is taken from Virgil's Aeneid (written in the 1st century BC), which recounts the legendary adventures of Aeneas: his flight after the sack of Troy by the Greeks, and his journey to Italy where he was to found the Roman Empire.

Death and sensuality
The scene is theatrical: the queen, kneeling on the pyre, eyes raised heavenward, plunges her lover's sword into her breast, thrusting the sheath behind her with her left arm. A few drops of blood flow from the wound.
Tragedy and sensuality are closely mingled here: Dido's suicidal pose, as she kneels on a soft cushion, is both elegant and revealing. Her fine tunic, open at her breast, shows the line of her thigh; the flowing cloak that has slipped from her shoulder is held in place at the hip by a finely-worked clasp, and a lock of hair emphasizes the nudity of her shoulder.

A virtuoso work
Cayot demonstrated his skillful rendering of textures with this funeral pyre: an artful pile of branches, logs, and Aeneas's armor. The Trojan hero's helmet with its plumed crest is an enormous fish head with an evil-looking eye, its gaping mouth turned toward the spectator.
The artist presented this virtuoso work for his admission into the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture on 31 December 1711. In the 18th century, sculpture in the round replaced the bas-relief work previously required by the institution.

Souchal François, French Sculptor of the 17th and 18th centuries, The reign of Louis XIV, Oxford, I, n. 6a, p. 87 ; IV, n. 6, p. 27.

Description Source



Book IV

Scene Depicted

96B3 the tragedy of Dido (Virgil, Aeneid IV)

Other Scene Depicted

96B332 death of Dido; she climbs the funeral pyre and falls upon the sword of Aeneas


Musée du Louvre

Institution Location



© Musée du Louvre

Image Source


Acquisition Method



Text Reference

Reid, Jane Davidson, and Chris Rohmann. The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s. Oxford University Press, 1993.




“The Death of Dido,” Mirabile Visu: Art of the Aeneid, accessed October 20, 2021,