Reminiscences of William Wetmore Story, American Author and Sculptor, Being Incidents and Anecdotes Chronologically Arranged Together with An Account of his Associations with Famous People and His Principal Works in Literature and Sculpture

CHICAGO AND NEW YORK: RAND, MCNALLY & COMPANY.

One of nineteenth-century America’s most successful sculptors, William Wetmore Story worked in the neoclassical idiom, sculpting large marble figures modeled after classical Greek and Roman styles, and even lived for a time in Rome, Italy, at the height of the neoclassical vogue. Like his colleague Hiram Powers, he was a fixture in the white liberal upper-class social circles of New England, and was a neoclassical sculptor at a time when neoclassical sculpture was seen to be able to comment on and even influence contemporary American politics.

Story’s fame reached its peak in the 1860s, following his novelized appearance in his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1860 novel The Marble Faun. A novel featuring a group of American expatriates in Rome at the time Story was living and working there, The Marble Faun features not so much Story himself as his most famous sculpture: Cleopatra. One of several Cleopatras sculpted by Story throughout his career, the Cleopatra which appears in Hawthorne’s novel did much to secure the notoriety of both Story and his sculpture, and, to no one’s surprise, Story returned again and again to the subject of the Egyptian queen. Nineteenth-century American fantasies of Cleopatra were hugely popular, as well as hugely racialized: as a figure of possibly mixed lineage, and as a figure of decadent power in the exoticized “Orient” of the first century B.C., images of Cleopatra gave authors and artists license to pour out their anxious imaginings regarding race, sex, slavery, and depravity.

Story is best remembered today for being a sculptor, but he was a published poet as well. In the fashion of many Americans living or traveling in Italy, Story published highly romanticized pieces on Roman history – ancient, more so than recent – and figures from antiquity were frequent players in his verse. His poem “Cleopatra,” originally published in Rome ca. 1864-65 but which did not appear in England until 1868, is by far his most famous. It appears here as part of a published “reminiscence” by his family friend Mary Phillips, and is accompanied by Phillips’ commentary on Story’s sculpted Cleopatras as well. Story’s verse Cleopatra is a classic of American Orientalism: highly exotic, highly seductive, highly animalistic, and highly dangerous.



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REMINISCENCES

OF

WILLIAM WETMORE STORY

American Sculptor and Author

BEING

INCIDENTS AND ANECDOTES

CHRONOLOGICALLY ARRANGED

TOGETHER WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HIS ASSOCIATIONS

WITH FAMOUS PEOPLE AND HIS PRINCIPAL

WORKS IN LITERATURE AND

SCULPTURE.

BY

MARY E. PHILLIPS.

CHICAGO AND NEW YORK:

RAND, MC TALLY & COMPANY.

1887.

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