Women 's Influence On Female Powerlessness : Harriet Hosmer And Empress Wu Zetian, A Song Dynasty Ruler

829 Words Oct 21st, 2016 4 Pages
For the vast majority of our contemporary history, female artists and patrons have been left out of the discussion and have not been recognized or studied in depth. In the last few decades, this has started to rapidly change. This essay will examine Harriet Hosmer, a prominent nineteenth century Neo-Classical sculptor and Empress Wu Zetian, a Song Dynasty ruler, as examples of this historical neglect. They will both be discussed in relation to their male contemporaries and how they situated themselves as equals.
Harriet Hosmer’s most relevant contemporary would certainly be Hiram Powers, with his Greek Slave statue being a very similar theme to Harriet’s Zenobia. Both of these statues display a female captive in chains. However, beyond that these two pieces of art are drastically different. Power’s Greek Slave invokes strong ideas of female powerlessness. The depicted female is passive and downcast; she is nude and implicitly sexually vulnerable. She is a nameless captive with almost no agency in her situation and gives off feelings of resignation. This is a typical representation of a female in the mid 19th century.
In stark contrast, Hosmer’s Zenobia challenges prevailing presentations of female powerless. The subject is the eponymous queen Zenobia and she takes a much more powerful role in the piece. She stands tall and respectful. She is not passive like the nameless Greek Slave, but rather is gripping her chains within her hand. Though she is captive she still has an…

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