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Zenobia in Chains

Artist
Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, American, 1830–1908
Date
c.1859
Material
Marble
Made in
Rome, Lazio, Italy, Europe
Classification
Sculpture
Current Location
On View, Gallery 336
Dimensions
44 1/4 x 14 x 18 in. (112.4 x 35.6 x 45.7 cm)
Credit Line
American Art Purchase Fund
Rights
Public Domain
Object Number
19:2008
NOTES
The dignity of this figure’s profile, with her head held high, and the intricate details of her ancient dress testify to Harriet Hosmer’s sophisticated carving abilities. Zenobia ruled Palmyra (present day Syria) for six years after her husband’s death in AD 267. She conquered Egypt and reigned until Roman forces overpowered her armies and captured her. Emperor Aurelian marched her in chains as part of his triumphal procession through Rome. Hosmer, one of a group of 19th century female sculptors working in Rome, held strong feminist beliefs. She saw in Zenobia an embodiment of a woman’s ability to move beyond the constraints placed on her. Zenobia’s bearing stresses her strength rather than victimization. As Hosmer wrote, “I have tried to make her too proud to exhibit passion or emotion of any kind; not subdued, though a prisoner; but calm, grand, and strong within herself.”
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