Hiram Powers, American (1805-1873)  A marble bust of Proserpine
Lot 227
Hiram Powers, American (1805-1873) A marble bust of Proserpine
Sold for £49,250 (US$ 82,935) inc. premium
Lot Details
Hiram Powers, American (1805-1873)
A marble bust of Proserpine
depicted emerging from acanthus leaves, the leaves terminating in a moulded oval base, signed to the reverse H. POWERS Sculpt, raised on a later grey veined marble pedestal above a square base, the bust 62cm high (24" high), overall 124cm high (48.5" high)

Footnotes

  • Hiram Powers was arguably the greatest American sculptor of the nineteenth century. He achieved international recognition for his near life-size figure of The Greek Slave, which became one of the most famous Orientalist works of art in the world. It was taken on a tour of America in the late 1840's, as well as holding pride of place in the United States contribution to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. Powers was a Swedenborgian or 'New Churchman', and believed that 'the legitimate aim of art should be spiritual and not animal' and that the natural body was merely a veil over the soul and spiritual body. This belief inspired him to create 'ideal' sculpture that represented an archetypal beauty obvious in the present bust.

    Proserpine was the daughter of Ceres (Summer), and the goddess of Spring. According to myth she was abducted by Pluto, the god of the underworld and held prisoner for four months, her release ending Winter and inducing the start of Spring. Power's bust of Proserpine was his most popular sculpture. The sculptor had been considering another ideal bust to pair with his bust of Ginerva which was completed in 1838, but did not begin work on the Proserpine until receiving a commission from Philadelphia publisher Edward L. Carey in 1843. His first version depicted Proserpine emerging from a basket of spring flowers, and is now in the Philadelphia Museum of art (acc.no. 1978-18-1a).

    Because of the work involved with carving the intricate flowers, his second version replaced them with acanthus leaves and a wicker basket. The bust proved so popular that Powers created numerous examples, offering them in life-size and two-thirds' life size. The demand was so great that he altered the bust again in 1849, removing the acanthus leaves and the basket and replacing them with a simple beaded border, for which he charged a reduced fee. There is an example of the second version in the Washington D.C., NMAA, and of the third version also in Washington, joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Reduced versions are also known, which omit the bust and depict only the head and shoulders. An example is in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.

    Related Literature:
    R. P. Wunder, Hiram Powers Vermont Sculptor, 1805 -1873, Newark, Delaware, 1990, page 187-204.
    Other busts of Prosperine by Powers were sold at Christie's New York, 1 December 2005, lot 79, and Christie's New York, 19 May 2005, lot 154.
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