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The subject in Giampietrino's Cleopatra shares the upward gaze we see in both Nguyen-Duy's photograph and the statue of St. Sebastian, but she doesn't seem to be experiencing pain (like Nguyen-Duy's subject) or a divine revelation (like St. Sebastian). 

Similar to the statue of St. Sebastian, Cleopatra does not appear to show any physical signs of pain. Her facial muscles are relaxedeyes open, mouth closedsuggesting again the opposite of the four main facial signs of pain (Prkachin, 2009). One might assume that due to the highly sexualized nature of the painting, Cleopatra's flushed cheeks and erect nipples, she is experiencing sexual arousal. Although it is difficult to assess the validity of this assumption, it is interesting to note that when comparing the facial features associated with pain and pleasure, they are almost exactly identical (Hughes & Nicholson, 2008). Both sensations are often portrayed by the body through closed eyes, a furrowed brow, a rise of the upper lip, and an open mouth (Fernández-Dols et al., 2011). However, Cleopatra's face gives no inkling of either of these sensations being explicitly present; instead, she seems rather apathetic towards the situation.

If Cleopatra is indeed sexually aroused, it could potentially explain the lack of pain that she is experiencing. Another study showed that exposure to pleasant pictures can enhance pain tolerance through the activation of the appetitive system (de Wied & Verbaten, 2001). While Cleopatra wasn't directly viewing a pleasant image in the moment of her suicide, her sexual arousal could have promoted a rise of mental images which would most likely have a similar effect.

Another plausible cause for Cleopatra's lack of pain sensation could be the situational aspect of her impending suicide. It is known that suicidal individuals show higher pain tolerance and appraise painful sensations as less intense than others (Orbach et al., 1996b). The increased pain tolerance is a product of the dissociative processes that are inherent with the development of suicidal tendencies (Orbach et al., 1996a). This creates a heightened vulnerability to stress which only increases the individual's indifference towards pain, ultimately facilitating suicidal behavior (Orbach, 2006).

Giampietrino makes something of a reverse martyr out of Cleopatra, sexualizing her to the point of negating all of the painful/violent aspects of her suicide. Giampietrino's work doesn't depict Biblical subject matter, but it does choose to focus on a historic story that has been severely mythicized. Giampietrino makes an example of Cleopatra, simultaneously condemning her for her lascivious nature while depicting her as a sexually available subject for viewer delectation. The erotic overtones of the painting suggest that Cleopatra died because of her sexual nature and that this was part of her fate—the visual references to Eve (the asp/serpent parallel, the fig leaf under the asp's basket) and Cleopatra's simultaneously aloof and erotic expression heighten this message in the work. Though Cleopatra's gaze has erotic overtones, it's also one of the only cues as to the suicidal nature of her act—though she doesn't appear to be in pain, her out-of-frame gaze connotes a higher presence similar to that of Nguyen-Duy's Vietnam War veteran.