Arabella Barlow was a nurse for the Union during the American Civil War. She was married to Union General Francis Barlow and the pair seemed to be truly in love, yet they were often separated by the circumstances of war. She followed him to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where he was badly wounded and left for dead on the battlefield. One popular story goes that Arabella risked her life to search for him amid the gun fire, and then nursed him back to health in a field hospital. Tragically, Arabella died of typhus a year later.
In her series ‘Prisoners from the Front,’ Harkness takes the story further by imagining and illustrating scenes from the young couple’s life, yet the General is a gender-fluid figure and Harkness uses her own wife’s likeness for Arabella. This erotic painting comes from the series.