Antiquity revisited by an American
Hiram Powers, one of the great names in American neo-classical sculpture, is again demonstrating his talent in idealised female nudes with this Antique Vestal.
Hiram Powers (1805-1873), Vestale antique, marble, 145 cm.
Hiram Powers owed his international reputation to his famous Greek Slave, created in 1843, which he exhibited in 1851 at London's Crystal Palace and then in New York two years later. In 1837 he moved to Florence, Italy, where he refined his skills as a sculptor in the various marbles of the region. Although he lived in Tuscany until his death, this did not prevent him from travelling, especially to his native country, thanks to numerous exhibitions staged in his honour. One tour in 1847 attracted more than 100,000 admirers: an apotheosis for this farmer's son, orphaned when he was very young. At 17, he became an apprentice in Luman Watson's clockmaking and musical instrument workshop in Cincinnati. But his bent for woodwork led him to study with Frederick Eckstein, a Prussian sculptor living in America. He then worked first as a model maker on scenes for the Western Museum and theatre sets before moving to Washington in 1834, where his fine, naturalistic sculpted portraits of leading figures of the time, notably President Andrew Jackson, ensured him financial security. In 1839, his career began to reflect the influence of antiquity with his appealing Eve: an idealised life-size nude much admired by the famous Danish neo-classical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen.