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

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
2007 - Cochrane exhibition at VMFA
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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