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!

Basin, Ayyubid Period

Basin, Ayyubid Period, Syria

Inscriptions on the interior and exterior of this extraordinary basin suggest that it was created during the reign of Sultan al-Malik al-Salih Najmuddin Ayyub, the last Ayyubid ruler, who reigned during the 1230s and 1240s. The work is particularly notable for its elaborate decoration which includes both Islamic and Christian themes. On the exterior, a wide inscription band depicts scenes from the life of Christ: The Annunciation, the Virgin and Child enthroned, the Raising of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, and perhaps the Last Supper. Some of the other motifs on the exterior consists of a lively polo game and a band of real and imaginary animals, punctuated by medallions with musicians. On the interior, a row of thirty-nine saints stands under ogival arches. Whether commissioned by a Muslim or Christian patron, the combination implies religious tolerance in thirteenth century Ayyubid Syria.