William Wetmore Story

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William Wetmore Story, circa 1865-1880 William Wetmore Story.jpg
William Wetmore Story, circa 1865–1880

William Wetmore Story (February 12, 1819 – October 7, 1895) was an American sculptor, art critic, poet, and editor.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.


Life and career

Medea, 1865, this version 1868 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Medea by William Wetmore Story 01.jpg
Medea , 1865, this version 1868 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

William Wetmore Story was the son of jurist Joseph Story and Sarah Waldo (Wetmore) Story. He graduated from Harvard College in 1838 and the Harvard Law School in 1840. After graduation, he continued his law studies under his father, was admitted to the Massachusetts bar, and prepared two legal treatises of value — Treatise on the Law of Contracts not under Seal (2 vols., 1844) and Treatise on the Law of Sales of Personal Property (1847). [1]

Joseph Story US Supreme Court justice

Joseph Story was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1812 to 1845, during the Marshall Court and early-Taney Court eras. He is most remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and The Amistad case, and especially for his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. Dominating the field in the 19th century, this work is a cornerstone of early American jurisprudence. It is the second comprehensive treatise on the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and remains a critical source of historical information about the forming of the American republic and the early struggles to define its law.

Harvard College Main undergraduate school of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard College is the undergraduate liberal arts college of Harvard University. Founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world.

Harvard Law School law school in Cambridge

Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1817, it is the oldest continuously operating law school in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world. It is ranked first in the world by the QS World University Rankings and the ARWU Shanghai Ranking.

He soon abandoned the law though to devote himself to sculpture, and after 1850 lived in Rome, where he had first visited in 1848, and where he counted among his friends the Brownings and Walter Savage Landor. In 1856, he received a commission for a bust of his late father, now in the Memorial Hall/Lowell Hall, Harvard University. Story's apartment in Palazzo Barberini became a central location for Americans in Rome. During the American Civil War his letters to the Daily News in December 1861 (afterwards published as a pamphlet, The American Question, i.e. of neutrality), and his articles in Blackwood's Magazine , had considerable influence on English opinion. [1]

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

Robert Browning English poet and playwright of the Victorian Era

Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose mastery of the dramatic monologue made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. His poems are known for their irony, characterization, dark humour, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax.

Walter Savage Landor British writer

Walter Savage Landor was an English writer, poet, and activist. His best known works were the prose Imaginary Conversations, and the poem Rose Aylmer, but the critical acclaim he received from contemporary poets and reviewers was not matched by public popularity. As remarkable as his work was, it was equalled by his rumbustious character and lively temperament. Both his writing and political activism, such as his support for Lajos Kossuth and Giuseppe Garibaldi, were imbued with his passion for liberal and republican causes. He befriended and influenced the next generation of literary reformers such as Charles Dickens and Robert Browning.

One of his most famous works, Cleopatra , (1858) was described and admired in Nathaniel Hawthorne's romance, The Marble Faun , [1] and is on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA. Another work, the Angel of Grief , has been replicated near the Stanford Mausoleum at Stanford University. Among his other life-size statues he completed were those of Saul, Sappho, Electra, Semiramide, Delilah, Judith, Medea, Jerusalem Desolate, Sardanapolis, Solomon, Orestes, Canidia, and Shakespeare. His Saul was completed in Rome in 1865, and taken to England by Noel Wills who displayed it at Rendcomb College. It is now in the collection of North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh. [2] His Sibyl and Cleopatra were exhibited at the 1863 Universal Exposition in London. [3]

Cleopatra Last active pharaoh of Ptolemaic Egypt

Cleopatra VII Philopator was the last active ruler of the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, nominally survived as pharaoh by her son Caesarion. As a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, she was a descendant of its founder Ptolemy I Soter, a Macedonian Greek general and companion of Alexander the Great. After the death of Cleopatra, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire, marking the end of the Hellenistic period that had lasted since the reign of Alexander. Her native language was Koine Greek and she was the first Ptolemaic ruler to learn the Egyptian language.

Nathaniel Hawthorne American novelist and short story writer

Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist, dark romantic, and short story writer.

<i>The Marble Faun</i> 1860 novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Marble Faun: Or, The Romance of Monte Beni, also known by the British title Transformation, was the last of the four major romances by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and was published in 1860. The Marble Faun, written on the eve of the American Civil War, is set in a fantastical Italy. The romance mixes elements of a fable, pastoral, gothic novel, and travel guide.

In the 1870s, Story submitted a design for the Washington Monument, then under a prolonged and troubled construction. Although the Washington National Monument Society considered his proposals "vastly superior in artistic taste and beauty" to the original 1836 design by Robert Mills, they were not adopted, and the monument was completed to Mills' scheme, only slightly modified. Story also sculpted a bronze statue of Joseph Henry on the Mall in Washington, D.C., the scientist who served as the Smithsonian Institution's first Secretary. His works Libyan Sibyl, Medea and Cleopatra are on display at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA.

Washington Monument Obelisk in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Monument is an obelisk on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., built to commemorate George Washington, once commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the first President of the United States. Located almost due east of the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial, the monument, made of marble, granite, and bluestone gneiss, is both the world's tallest predominantly stone structure and the world's tallest obelisk, standing 554 feet 7 1132 inches (169.046 m) tall according to the National Geodetic Survey or 555 feet 5 18 inches (169.294 m) tall according to the National Park Service. It is the tallest monumental column in the world if all are measured above their pedestrian entrances. It was the tallest structure in the world from 1884 to 1889, when it was overtaken by the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Robert Mills, a South Carolina architect known for designing both the first Washington Monument, located in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the better known monument to the first president in the nation's capital, Washington, DC. He is sometimes said to be the first native-born American to be professionally trained as an architect. Charles Bulfinch of Boston perhaps has a clearer claim to this honor.

Joseph Henry American scientist

Joseph Henry was an American scientist who served as the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He was the secretary for the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a precursor of the Smithsonian Institution. He was highly regarded during his lifetime. While building electromagnets, Henry discovered the electromagnetic phenomenon of self-inductance. He also discovered mutual inductance independently of Michael Faraday, though Faraday was the first to make the discovery and publish his results. Henry developed the electromagnet into a practical device. He invented a precursor to the electric doorbell and electric relay (1835). The SI unit of inductance, the Henry, is named in his honor. Henry's work on the electromagnetic relay was the basis of the practical electrical telegraph, invented by Samuel F. B. Morse and Sir Charles Wheatstone, separately.

Story died at Vallombrosa Abbey, Italy, a place he was sentimentally attached, and which he chronicled in an informal travel journal, Vallombrosa in 1881. He is buried with his wife, Emelyn Story, in the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, under a statue of his own design ( Angel of Grief ).

Vallombrosa Abbey abbey

Vallombrosa is a Benedictine abbey in the comune of Reggello, about 30 km south-east of Florence, in the Apennines, surrounded by forests of beech and firs. It was founded by Giovanni Gualberto, a Florentine noble, in 1038 and became the mother house of the Vallumbrosan Order.

Protestant Cemetery, Rome cemetery in Rome, Italy; located near Porta San Paolo

The Cimitero Acattolico of Rome, often referred to as the Cimitero dei protestanti or Cimitero degli Inglesi, is a private cemetery in the rione of Testaccio in Rome. It is near Porta San Paolo and adjacent to the Pyramid of Cestius, a small-scale Egyptian-style pyramid built between 18 and 12 BC as a tomb and later incorporated into the section of the Aurelian Walls that borders the cemetery. It has Mediterranean cypress, pomegranate and other trees, and a grassy meadow. It is the final resting place of non-Catholics including but not exclusive to Protestants or British people. The earliest known burial is that of a University of Oxford student named Langton in 1738. The English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried there.

<i>Angel of Grief</i> sculpture

Angel of Grief or the Weeping Angel is an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story for the grave of his wife Emelyn Story at the Protestant Cemetery in Rome. Its full title bestowed by the creator was The Angel of Grief Weeping Over the Dismantled Altar of Life.

A posthumous biography of Wetmore (and his circle), entitled William Wetmore Story and His Friends , was penned by Henry James.


His children also pursued artistic careers: Thomas Waldo Story (1854–1915) became a sculptor; Julian Russell Story (1857–1919) was a successful portrait painter; and Edith Marion (1844–1907), the Marchesa Peruzzi de' Medici, became a writer.

Selected works

Selected writings



  1. 1 2 3 Chisholm 1911.
  2. "Acquisitions of the month: December 2018". Apollo Magazine.
  3. Dizionario degli Artisti Italiani Viventi: pittori, scultori, e Architetti., by Angelo de Gubernatis. Tipe dei Successori Le Monnier, 1889, page 498.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Story, William Wetmore"  . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Further reading

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