Dido on the Pyre

Dublin Core


Dido on the Pyre

Artwork Item Type Metadata

Other Title

Didone sul rogo

Agent Name

Preti, Mattia

Agent Role


Agent Culture




Time Period

17th century


oil on canvas



Work Type



After the abandonment by Aeneas, forced to leave by the gods, Dido, queen of Carthage, ordered his servants that every memory of the lover be burned. The beautiful Carthaginian, vehement and desperate, suddenly seized with fury, seized the sword of Aeneas by inflicting her breast and throwing herself on the burning pyre thus giving herself death ( Eneide , I, 630, IV, 412).
In the version of the same subject of little precedent and kept in Chambéry (see Spike 1999, n.19) Mattia Preti highlighted the disgrace of the pagan heroine: Dido is in fact portrayed with an expression of tragic acceptance of destiny.
In the Braunschweig variant, the heroic Carthaginian queen is portrayed with full mastery of her actions, and imperturbable in giving herself torture, a stoic interpreter of her own misfortune; the woman is rendered with a determined and sure look, recalling in her attitude the Christian saints, and in particular Saint Catherine of Alexandria, often the interpreter of the highest Pretean compositions (Spike 1999).
The composition is set in a rather traditional way: Dido, in the foreground, in a slightly raised position on the pyre; around the servants is the crown in a series of scenic plans. The re-enactments of Veronese's painting are evident, even in the monumental columns, which act as a scenic backdrop to the representation, wrapped in wide draperies.
The history of the painting is recent, linked to private collections and auction houses, and no literary or archival source can indicate the original location. The dating is between 1665 and 1670 (Spike 1999), when, compatibly with the numerous public commitments in Malta, Mattia Preti continued to paint compositions of historical theme also and above all for non-island commissions.

Vittorio Sgarbi - Mattia Preti - Rubbettino, Soveria Mannelli (CS), 2013

Description Source

Mattia Preti


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


Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum

Institution Location



Fair Use

Image Source

Mattia Preti

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.




“Dido on the Pyre,” Mirabile Visu: Art of the Aeneid, accessed October 20, 2021, http://artofaeneid.com/items/show/3597.