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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: Hiram Powers, American, 1805–1873
The Greek Slave
1851, after an original of 1844
Overall (figure): 165.7 x 53.3 x 46.4 cm (65 1/4 x 21 x 18 1/4 in.), base (upper): 52.07 x 66.04 cm (20 1/2 x 26 in.), base (lower): 10.795 x 86.36 cm (4 1/4 x 34 in.)
Olive Louise Dann Fund
“There should be a moral in every work of art,” proclaimed the expatriate sculptor Hiram Powers from his studio in Florence, Italy. Taking as his subject the atrocities committed during the Greek War of Independence, Powers portrays a young Greek woman for sale by her Turkish captors. The sculpture, whose pose was based in part on the Florentine Venus de’ Medici, immediately made the artist one of the most acclaimed sculptors of his day. Powers defended the figure’s nudity, a controversial topic at the time in puritanical America, by “clothing” her in the garb of moral and religious strength. “It is not her person but her spirit that stands exposed,” he wrote. The Greek Slave became a symbol for abolitionists and the most celebrated sculpture in nineteenth-century America, inspiring an outpouring of prose and poetry.
Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 175, fig. 6.4.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.