Cleopatra Quad Cinema Artwork

Artist: Thomas William Chantrell
Format: Artwork
Condition: Excellent
Year: 1963


This is the original Chantrell artwork (17 1/2"x 25 1/2") for the Quad poster for the 1963 epic "Cleopatra". The film has proved to be one of the most noteworthy of all 20th century cinematic productions. The grandiose scale of the film ensured critical acclaim (it was nominated for 9 Oscars & won 4) but such was the ambition & budget over-runs, that the film cost a record $44m.


Controversy also beleaguered the film, the on set affair between Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton igniting a moral furore as both were already married (the Vatican accused Taylor of "erotic vagrancy"). Though the film was the highest grossing of 1963, the colossal cost still meant a loss followed and it brought 20th Century-Fox to the brink of bankruptcy.The documentary "Cleopatra: The Film That Changed Hollywood" (2001), is well worth watching for greater insight.


The Chantrell artwork is composed of watercolour and gouache with collage over-lays, all set onto artboard and this piece has been signed, framed and glazed. Clearly Chantrell thought highly of this particular piece of artwork as it was displayed in his home. The Fiskens collection acquired this item from a Christie's auction in 2012. The blank space lower right was left bare for the later insertion of cast/credits script as per the finished Quad poster shown below.


In America, the artist Howard Terpning was commissioned to produce artwork for the domestic advertising campaign (see below). Like the film itself, Terpning's artwork caused a stir, his first attempt showing Elizabeth Taylor in recline with Richard Burton at her side. Though clearly capturing the essence of the film & what was in the public eye at the time, Rex Harrison was not happy and commenced legal action (since he shared equal billing with Taylor and Burton his chagrin is perhaps understandable). Terpning was therefore forced to provide an alternate design, this time featuring Harrison too.


In 2011, Terpning's original artwork was offered at auction in America and sold for $126,000. The American market for movie posters and related artwork is larger and more mature than the British market. It is, however, likely that price trends in Britain will follow developments Stateside in just a few years.