Zenobia in Chains

Zenobia in Chains, Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, 1859

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. This statue of Zenobia was found for sale by a WashU art student in an antique shop on Cherokee, here in Saint Louis. He recognized the significance of the chains on the figure and bought the statue for twenty bucks. Now it sits in the Saint Louis Art Museum. Some picking!

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