A prolific author of poems, prose, and social commentary, the American sculptor William Story was also a muse. Nathaniel Hawthorne based the central figure on Story for his wildly popular 1860 novel, The Marble Faun, a romance featuring a young sculptor and his carving of Cleopatra. The book’s popularity thrust both Story and his sculpture into the limelight.
For his pensive rendering of the Egyptian queen, Story selects a moment of psychological tension. Caught deep in thought, Cleopatra wears a polished bracelet on her outstretched arm, foreshadowing her certain death from the bite of a venomous snake.