Woman Enslaved by Love. A.B. Simpson. Bronze. 1915. Signed and dated on base. Private collection [Click on these images and those below to enlarge them.]
Simpson's small bronze of a young woman with shackled wrists whose left ankle is chained to Cupid offers a very unusual late-nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century representation of a woman in bondage. Throughout the Victorian age and afterwards, one frequently encounters Andromeda, the Princess saved by St. George, and their sisters in chains — always deliciously nude and vulnerable for the male viewer's delectation and always saved by a handsome male hero, in part as a way of reinforcing standard notions of gender and in part as a salve to the male viewer's conscience. Here, in contrast, the woman walks despondently chained to Cupid, and this represents an interesting gender and role reversal, for in countless paintings, statues, and poems — think of Keats, Rossetti, Swinburne, and Burne-Jones — the man is a helpless victim of a femme fatale. This early twentieth-century depiction of a young girl enchained by love shows her enslaved not by the conquerors of Greece (in Hiram Power's famous statue) and not threatened by a horrible dragon but . . . victimized by love. Clearly, long gone are the notions of those early Victorians, who thought that the ideal woman was a sleeping beauty who only wakened to erotic love when first loved by a (socially and financially acceptable) man!
Photographs and formatting by George P. Landow. Caption by the owner. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
Last modified 16 September 2011