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William Wetmore Story (1819–1895)
American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Neoclassical sculptors often drew upon mythology, ancient history, the Bible, and classical and contemporary literature for their subject matter. The statues of Harvard-educated William Wetmore Story exemplify this inclination, and Cleopatra, his most famous work, was only one of dozens of subjects such as Medea, Delilah, Electra, and Saul that were produced in his studio. "Cleopatra" is highly representative of Story's oeuvre: most of his statues are single figures in the round, often seated deep in thought meditating on deeds of cataclysmic significance; here Cleopatra contemplates her suicide. The sculptor was renowned for the archaeological exactitude of the props and costumes of his figures. The attention paid to historical accuracy is matched by the virtuosity of the carving.