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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Last weekend to see Smithsonian's 'Greek Slave'

 Model of the Greek Slave, 1843, plaster, metal points, Hiram Powers (1805-1873)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

This life-size plaster cast was completed in Hiram Powers' Florence, Italy studio on March 12, 1843 from a clay model, and it served as the prototype for six marble statues which sculptors, working under Powers' watchful eyes, carved for patrons between 1844 and 1869.
The gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum for the Greek Slave/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Six million visitors toured the 1851 international fair in London where the Greek Slave rotated on a pedestal, the first time an exhibition allotted a section to the U.S. (The American portion included a teepee, Indians [seen in the background], portraits of presidents, and a cylinder engine.) This rendering is from a hand-colored lithograph at the Library of Congress/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A pointing machine and assistants allowed replicas and copies of the Greek Slave to be made at Hiram Powers' studio /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Life Cast of Left Forearm and Hand, fragment, about 1843, plaster, from the studio of Hiram Powers, Florence, Italy, 1837-1873/Photo by Patricia Leslie. The model for this cast is unknown but using a cast instead of modeling was verboten among sculptors. This model identically matches the Greek Slave's hand's and arm's dimensions and positions.

Catch her before the Greek Slave, "one of the best-known and critically acclaimed artworks of the nineteenth century," leaves display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Sunday.

With his Greek Slave sculpture, Hiram Powers (1805-1873) became the first American to gain international art acclaim. Powers said his statue represented a young woman kidnapped by the Turks during the Greek revolution (1821-1832). U.S. abolitionists adopted her
as a symbol of slavery, and John Greenleaf Whittier and Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote poems about her.

One of the six original marble versions of the Smithsonian's plaster statue is at the West Building at the National Gallery of Art, a gift of William W. Corcoran to the Corcoran Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Greek Slave was the first publicly exhibited fully-figured nude female who, some venues required, demanded separate viewings by men and women, the Smithsonian notes. Even in this century, she continues to draw controversy and cover-up.

In 2004 Wikipedia says Vermont Governor James Douglas (R) ordered her likeness on a small lamp removed from his office, so afraid he was that children might see her, since it's doubtful that not all knew what a naked woman looked like.

 One of the six marble models is at the West Building at the National Gallery of Art, a gift of William W. Corcoran to the Corcoran Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

 Attracted by Florence, Italy's marble and carvers, Powers, who was born in Woodstock, Vermont, left the U.S. in 1837, never to return as he planned. The Smithsonian acquired the statue and other pieces from his Florence studio in 1968 and at the Smithsonian, the Greek Slave has occupied her own large gallery for almost two years.  One of the six original marbles stands on the ground level of the West Building at the National Gallery of Art which calls it "arguably the most famous American sculpture ever." 

She is "an emblem of the trial to which all humanity is subject, and may be regarded as a type of resignation, uncompromising virtue, or sublime patience," wrote the tour manager, Miner Kellogg when the statue toured the U.S.  in 1847 or 1848 (two different years listed by Wikipedia) drawing 100,000 viewers.[6]
One of the six marble models is at the West Building, the National Gallery of Art, a gift of William W. Corcoran to the Corcoran Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

What: The Greek Slave

When: Closes Sunday, July 9, 2017. The museum is open from 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. every day.

Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F streets, N. W., Washington, D.C. 20004

How much: No charge

For more information
: 202-633-1000 or visit the web site.

Metro station
: Gallery Place-Chinatown or walk 10 minutes from Metro Center

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