William Wetmore Story’s marble “Cleopatra” 1878

William Wetmore Story's marble "Cleopatra", 1878
Enlargement

William Wetmore Story's marble "Cleopatra", 1878
Enlargement

William Wetmore Story's marble "Cleopatra", 1878
Enlargement

William Wetmore Story's marble "Cleopatra" 1878
Enlargement

At the High Museum. Looking around the internet there appear to be several of these sculptures. One at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is from 1869. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has another from 1860. How many are there? The marble is supposed to be of Cleopatra contemplating her suicide, and perhaps that is a reason that a breast is conspicuously uncovered, the story being that she died of an asp bite to her breast. Though she is supposed to be contemplating her suicide, it was only from one stance, her left side, that I was able to get an angle that looked even vaguely suggestive of an individual not simply meditating on dishes which are sitting in the kitchen sink after a satisfying dinner or a new pair of shoes that make her feet hurt, which is odd to me. What I saw in the sculpture, which led me to give it the dark treatment I have, was a forerunner of Hollywood silent film epics. And the pose and the drapery is lovely. But, though I have read her described as “severe”, this Cleopatra seems nearly absent of expression. In her mood I comprehend neither loss or gain, grief or satisfaction.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

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