Educational
modeled 1858; carved 1865
American
marble
United States
Overall: 54 × 45 × 27 in. (137.16 × 114.3 × 68.58 cm)
2005.73

Cleopatra represents the high point of America’s taste for neo-classical sculpture in the mid-19th century. Leader of the second generation of expatriate sculptors residing in Italy, Story produced a monumental image of the brooding Egyptian queen. Seated on a throne, she leans back as if to contemplate past and future deeds.

After American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne saw the clay model for Cleopatra in Story’s Roman studio, he described it in his novel The Marble Faun (1860). Immortalizing the artwork before it was carved in stone, he declared it as “miraculous success” and continued:

Cleopatra – fierce, voluptuous, passionate, tender, wicked, terrible, and full of poisonous and rapturous enchantment…she would be one of the images that men keep forever, finding a heat in them which does not cool down, throughout the centuries.

Story went on to produce several full-scale idealized figures – many of them powerful women from history and mythology. His Cleopatra, however, remained one of the best-known American sculptures of the century.

Inscribed on medallion to the left of the chair: "WWS / Roma 1865"; carved in relief, on the front of the base: "Cleopatra"
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
O’Leary, Elizabeth L., Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 58, p. 159-162).

Apollo, December 2005, p. 356, color ill.

Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1984), 274-81.

Albert T. Gardner, "William Story and Cleopatra," The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 2 (Oct. 1943): 147-52.

William H. Gerdts, American Neo-classic Sculpture: The Marble Resurrection (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 122-123, fig. 139.

William H. Gerdts, "William Wetmore Story," The American Art Journal, 4 (November 1972): 16-33.

Edward Everett Hale, Ninety Days' Worth of Europe (Boston: Walker, Wine, and Co., 141-48.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun or, the Romance of Monet Beni. (1860; repr. New York: Standard Book Company, 1931), 80-81.

Henry James, William Wetmore Story and his Friends (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1903), 33.

"Paran Stevens Pictures Sold," New York Times (26 November 1895): 5.
Mary E. Phillips, Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Co., 1897), 133-34, 296.

Lorado Taft, The History of American Sculpture (New York: MacMillan, 1930) 150, 153-54, ill. opposite 150.

"Taste at South Kensington," Temple Bar, 5 (July 1862): 479.

"William W. Story and his Cleopatra," Dwight's Journal of Music (28 July 1860): 141.

William Wetmore Story, "Cleopatra," Dwight's Journal of Music, 25 (6 September 1865): 1.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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