CodeDS/UK/117
Person NamePowers; Hiram (1817-1873)
Dates1817-1873
HistoryHiram Powers was a Vermont born sculptor who rose to fame in the nineteenth century. He initially worked in the workshop of a clock and organ maker, and then in Cincinnati's Western Museum where he made and repaired wax figures, including his famous automated depiction of Dante’s Inferno. In 1837 he moved to Florence with his wife and children with the intention of learning how to translate clay and plaster works into marble.

However, as Powers became more successful he decided to remain in Florence where he could work with the skilled Italian carvers whose abilities could not be matched in the United States. In 1845 Powers' most famous work the Greek Slave, went on exhibition for the first time in London before touring America. It is this work, an ideal neoclassical statue, which is credited with initiating appreciation of the nude in art in America. Throughout his career Powers also sculpted over one hundred portrait busts of high-profile members of society, such as President Andrew Jackson.

In the 1850s his reputation declined somewhat, nonetheless his workshop remained open for a further four years after his death, until 1877, when the age of the workmen and the disputes between two of his sons, who were running the workshop, forced its closure.

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